Why do Norilsk railway workers love August?
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Why do Norilsk railway workers love August?

August 05, 2021

In 2021, the anniversary is celebrated not only of the northernmost railway, but also of the Railway Worker’s Day.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. For the first time this professional holiday appeared in the Russian calendar in the previous but one century. The date – June 28, 1896 – was timed to coincide with the birthday of Emperor Nicholas I, who was considered the founder of this type of transport.

This day was a holiday and a day off before the arrival of Soviet Government. In the USSR, the tradition was resumed only in 1936, which coincided with the birthday of the Norilsk railway.

It is not known whether July 30, 1936 was celebrated in Norilsk. In the summer of 1936, the construction of the second narrow-gauge railway from Norilsk to Dudinka began. The future Norilsk railway was one hundred kilometers longer than the 14-kilometer line that connected the Zero Point with the pier on Norilskaya river in February.

The ice road Norilsk – Dudinka opened on May 17, 1937, and in June, it was closed when the embankment, made of peat, branches, snow and ice, began to collapse.

The narrow-gauge railway entered into permanent operation only in winter, when a normal roadbed was prepared, however, after each spring flood, it was necessary to restore bridges over the Ambarnaya, Kosaya, Duromoy, Daldykan rivers.

The Norillag prisoners delivered timber for their construction in trolleys under sail, which was easier than pushing them by hand.

Before the start of the war, in 1940, Railroad Worker’s Day was postponed to the first Sunday in August. By this time, a separate division of the railway was organized at the plant under construction, and in August 1941, together with the narrow-gauge railway, the first five-kilometer section of the road with a gauge of 1524 mm began to operate.

Further construction was postponed by the war. The first wide-gauge train came from Dudinka to Norilsk in 1952, and a year later the dismantling of the narrow gauge tracks began. Fragments of the historic narrow-gauge railway were preserved in the 1980s.

When the authorities started talking about the fact that the broken-down bridge across Ambarka river should be burned, the head of the road in 1986-1994, Alexander Moroz, stood up for the historical relic. By joint efforts, the bridge was not only preserved and put in order, but also a steam locomotive-monument was erected on it. Local railway workers found it in Ukraine, in the Gaivoronsky locomotive depot: it was from the same series that ran from Dudinka to Norilsk and back in the thirties and forties. The next year, the steam locomotive celebrates a round date: it was opened on the Railway Worker Day in 1992.

Almost two decades later, the bridge across the Ambarka, which had fallen into disrepair, was dismantled. Its exact copy at the former historical site, together with a steam locomotive, received the status of a memorial complex in honor of the first builders of Norilsk.

The dismantling of the bridge and the temporary absence of a steam locomotive at Ambarka caused heated discussions in the city: the Norilsk residents feared that they would lose the historical monument. However, for ten years now, everyone leaving and arriving in the city see both the bridge and the locomotive. Moreover, the railway workers are still happy that their professional holiday falls on August. In the summer, there is no need to deal with snowdrifts. True, the permafrost, retreating into the depths, makes the track mobile, but in 85 years, the northernmost railroad workers have learned to cope with it.

In previous issues of the History spot photo project, we talked about the first bridges in Norilsk made of wood and ice, and the Norilsk train arrived directly at Leninsky Prospekt.

For other issues of our photo project about the history of the city and the combine, go to the History spot section.

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Text: Valentina Vachaeva, Photo: Norilsk residents’ archives

August 05, 2021

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