Route 7: Railway story

Route 7: Railway story

November 30, 2021

The majestic, spacious railway station was a place of parting and meeting of many generations of Norilsk residents.

 It’s still nice to stop near the monumental and luxurious three-storey building in order to examine the columns, clear architectural lines, to imagine how the Norilsk people lived and worked during the Stalin and post-Stalin times.

Once upon a time, trains arrived from the airport and Dudinka to Oktyabrskaya Square in Norilsk. But the city-combine had big plans not only for the necessary internal communication, but also for a more global – external one.

The construction of the railway station on Vokzalnaya Street in the Old Town began in 1951. Then it was already known for certain that Norilsk would become a major railway junction on the way from the European part of the country to the east.

In the early 50s, almost half of the way was built on the Chum – Salehard – Igarka section of the railway. In the autumn of 1953, a monument to Stalin was erected on the square in front of the station building. However, construction site No. 501-503 was closed soon, and the monument to the father of nations was demolished. In fact, the station itself turned into a monument.

The Norilsk railway is one of the northernmost ones in the world, a kind of isolated railway “oasis”. It is about 700 kilometers away from the nearest Russian Railways station. For more than 80 years it has been serving the needs of the Norilsk industrial region. Its history began in 1936, when the first branch was built from the pier on the Norilskaya River to the mines under construction at the Schmidt’s Mount.

At the same time, the Norillag prisoners began to build a 114-kilometer narrow-gauge railway from Dudinka. In the spring of 1947, the first train passed along it. The narrow-gauge road Norilsk – Dudinka was altered to a wide track a little later, when by 1953 the railway station had been rebuilt.

Many people today believe in the revival of the railway as a link to the mainland. For example, Boris Shvaikov, a hereditary railway worker, spoke about the dream project of connecting Norilsk and the mainland:

“It is quite possible to build a railway from us to the mainland! The northern coast and the borders of the Arctic are developing: apatites, oil, coal, and the mineral complex. Without the new version of the railway, these treasures cannot be used effectively”.

By the way, experts from the Russian Geographical Society took over the study of the abandoned construction site No. 503 – the railway, which was supposed to be built from Norilsk to Urengoy in Soviet times. Based on the results of their expeditions, the engineers and scientists proposed three versions of the Transpolar Mainline.

Today, there is the Norilsk Railway museum on the site near the station – excursions are conducted there. The building itself is adjacent to a huge gallery of locomotives of various modifications and years of construction, and all that is in the open air, in perfect condition, preserved “forever and with love”.

The exposition includes the industrial electric locomotive that operated in Norilsk from 1957 to 1968: two railcars, one of which, the Red Railcar, was used by the director of the Norilsk combine Boris Kolesnikov for his inspection trips in 1970-1980. There is also an electric shunting diesel locomotive, a train carriage from Riga (it transported Norilsk Nickel employees until the mid-1990s), as well as a trailed carriage of the famous Norilsk electric train that ran on rails from 1967 to 1980.

By the end of the 1990s, the passenger traffic had disappeared altogether, it was considered unprofitable. Today, only industrial cargoes go through the Norilsk-Sortirovochnaya station. All of them are used for the needs of the Nornickel enterprises and divisions.

Inside the station building there is a department of the Technological Railway Transport Enterprise, as the Norilsk Railway is called today. Its heart – the station – remains one of the most beautiful architectural features of the era.

Use the Must see and must do tag to read about other routes in Norilsk and Dudinka.

Text: Marina Khoroshevskaya, Photo: Nikolay Shchipko, Igor Yagubkov, Marina Lystseva and archives of Norilsk residents

November 30, 2021

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