MOSCOW, October 30 (Itar-Tass) — Russian railways are marking their 175th jubilee Tuesday, October 30. It was precisely on this day in 1837 that the country’s first line linking St Petersburg and the suburban town of Tsarskoye Selo was commissioned and the first train traversed the distance of 27 kilometers.
Construction of a railway in those years brought to spotlight the most advanced achievements in engineering and the success of the first line stimulated a further development and ramification of a network of ‘iron threads’ as they were frequently referred to in Russia in those years.
While well-off and educated people enjoyed an opportunity to assess the advantages of the new type of transport almost immediately, the rank-and-file Russians would spend years upon years getting accustomed the novelty and subduing the fright spelt by the ‘fire-exhaling iron horses’.
Acting as the loco driver of the first train was the chief builder of the railway, Franz Gerstner, a Czech by ethnic origin. He received Emperor Nicholas I’s authorization for setting up a joint-stock company for building a line from St Petersburg to Tsarskoye Selo to Pavlovsk.
In the first years of history of the railway transport, journeys by the ‘iron road’ made up an exclusive privilege of the upper classes of society. Coaches for passengers from the grassroots would appear later and anyone of today’s commuters would scarcely call those trips comfortable.
The then coaches did not have ceilings and the passengers would have to sit under wooden benches during the trip so as to shelter themselves from the sparks and hot cinders dashing out of the loco’s funnel.
As decades passed by, the network of railways continued expanding and the rolling stock saw obvious improvements. The volumes of passenger traffic and cargo haulage grew respectively.
Development of many Russian cities was directly stimulated by the railway business and one can hardly overestimate the role that the railway transport played at the pivotal points of the country’s history, for instance in the giant leap that the Russian economy made from the end of the 19th century through to the 1980’s or in the battles and combat operations of World War II.
Today’s system of Russian railways, which have sixteen territorial divisions, operates the lines with the total length of about 86,000 kilometers. It accounts for 80.3% of all the cargo haulage and 44% of all passenger transportation nationwide.
In terms of total length of its railways, Russia is second only to the U.S.
The general plan for the development of railway transportation through to 2020 suggests that the railway authorities will have to build 259 km of third backbone lines and 2,389 km of second backbone lines, as well as to electrize 619 km of lines.
Project-making for the construction of high-speed railways is in progress and a quality new growth of cargo haulage is expected, too.