Dead road left architectural trace

Dead road left architectural trace

May 15, 2024

Have you ever wondered why such a large and even majestic station building was erected for our small, local railway?

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Now the railway office’s headquarters is located there, but when it was built, they planned that express trains from other cities would arrive here.

“The significance of this road is the revitalization of the half-dead northern region”. This is how Alexander Sotnikov, one of the territory discoverers, wrote about the future Norilsk railway back in 1919. It was clear that solving the transport issue was the basic term for the development of the North in general, and Norilsk in particular. The first railway line in Taimyr ran from the Valyok pier to the Zero Point – only 14 kilometers. It started working in February 1936, at the same time they began to extend the line to Dudinka. But such a front station was not needed for the local section of the railway. What was the reason then?

The construction phase of the Norilsk railway lasted almost 20 years. At first they fought over the narrow-gauge railway, then they took on the wide-gauge branch. The transition from one to the other occurred at the end of 1952. The first through train passed on November 22, and regular service opened in December. The cherry on the cake of railway construction in the Arctic was the station building, built by 1953. The grand entrance, three floors, with rich interiors, seemed to be preparing to receive trains from more distant places than neighboring Dudinka.

The answer to this question lies in the construction of the so-called dead, or Stalin’s railway. In 1947, construction of the Salehard-Igarka railway began, officially it was called construction site No. 501-503. The project also included a dead-end line to Norilsk. The prisoners built the road in inhumane conditions, and even almost finished it. But after Stalin’s death the process was stopped. However, they managed to build a station in Norilsk, which was supposed to meet the transpolar express trains arriving along the Arctic highway. But in the end, the station served only local transportation, and the Norilsk railway remained a thing-in-itself.

A whole group of architects worked on the project of this building: Dmitry Kormakov, Sergey Horunzhy, Gevorg Kochar, which subsequently gave rise to disputes about authorship. This is how the chief architect of Norilsk, Larisa Nazarova, recalled it: “The project was entrusted to the team of Nikolay Boykov, where I also worked. The design task was given to Dmitry Kormakov, a practicing architect. Together they decided to make the station in the classical tradition, close to the architecture of Norilsk of that time. According to the assignment, it was necessary to interlock two standard buildings of the corridor system with offices to accommodate the railway’s technical and administrative services. On the ground floor it was supposed to be a small cash register lobby. Dmitry decided to slightly expand the central part, make it two floors high and place a hall for passengers, a ticket office and a buffet in it, and make a balcony for the transition from one wing to another. Classic columns were introduced into the interior…” The station building has two main exits: one to the platform, the other – to Vokzalnaya street. And the greeting sign ‘Norilsk’, as expected, was on the side of the railway tracks.

This photograph is interesting because in it, although in the distance, you can see the monument to Stalin that stood on the station square. Surprisingly, this is perhaps the only known photograph of it. There are many legends about the sculpture, they say that immediately after the death of the “father of nations”, it was toppled, smashed, drowned, buried… In reality, they approached the matter more carefully at that time. The monument to Stalin not only outlived its prototype, but even continued to stand on this square even after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR in 1956, where the cult of personality was condemned. In the documents of the Norilsk city executive committee for 1961 (!), you can see a list of sculptures to be protected, including this monument. However, Stalin was removed, the pedestal stood empty for some time, and then a bust of Kalinin was placed on it.

In the History Spot’s previous publication, we wrote about the building of the Norilsk College of Arts.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

May 15, 2024

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