Are rails on permafrost possible?

Are rails on permafrost possible?

February 18, 2021

The island Norilsk railway is rightfully considered one of the unique railway objects in the world.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. On February 12 Norilsk railway celebrates its 85th anniversary. On this day in 1936, the first train passed the Norilsk – Valyok section.

The railway in Norilsk is one of the northernmost. Geographically, it has two competitors in Russia. The first is the Pechenga station in the Murmansk region. Both Norilsk and Pechenga are located on the 69th parallel, but the latter is still a fraction of a minute more to the north. However, Pechenga belongs to the Octyabrskaya railway, one of the Russian Railways’ branches, and is connected by communication with St. Petersburg and Moscow, that is, with all of Europe. The second competitor is the Karskaya station at 70th latitude, which was opened in 2011 to service the Yamal oil and gas fields. The Obskaya – Bovanenkovo ​​- Karskaya line is part of the Northern Railway, also a branch of Russian Railways, and is also connected with the Big Land.

The building of the railway station built in 1953 on Vokzalnaya street, 8, in Norilsk

Norilsk railway is an island one. Its length is 390 kilometers, and its main purpose is to serve the Nornickel company’s divisions located beyond the Arctic Circle. In the 21st century, the construction of railway tracks in the Arctic used the latest technologies to maintain a stable state of permafrost. There were no such technologies in the 1950s, and the famous Stalin’s construction project Chum – Salekhard – Igarka became a failure. It was assumed that Norilsk would be a major railway junction on the way from the European part of the country to the east. The beautiful building of the railway station built in 1953 on Vokzalnaya street, 8 in Norilsk reminds of it. Now the office of the Technological Railway Transport Enterprise (TRTE) is located here.

The museum of the enterprise is located in the same historical building, having visited it, one can learn about the difficult stages of the railway construction in the North, the fight against snow drifts and permafrost. Nearby, in the open air, there is an exposition with historical rolling stock, and on the way from the airport to the city you can see exactly the same train that first ran along the narrow-gauge railway, built on the embankment of snow and ice in 1937.

The first years of the road construction were really heroic. For 85 years, the enterprise has gone from using a pick and shovel in construction to high-tech machines that help clear paths from snow drifts and knock them out after a spring subsidence.

The TRTE machinery park is constantly updated, annual repairs of the railway are obligatory in the spring-summer period. The enterprise became one of the first in the country where the introduction of microprocessor centralization began.

Text: Tatiana Rychkova, Photo: Nikolay Shchipko

February 18, 2021

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