Baikal Amur Mainline


Baikal Amur Mainline

The Baikal-Amur Mainline (Russian Байкало-Амурская Магистраль, "Baikalo-Amurskaya Magistral’", BAM) is a railway line in Russia. Traversing Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East, the 4,324 km (2,687 mile) long BAM runs about 610 to 770 km (380 to 480 miles) north of and parallel to the Trans-Siberian railway.

The BAM was built as a strategic alternative route to the Trans-Siberian Railway, especially along the vulnerable sections close to the border with China. BAM's costs were estimated at $14 billion, and it was built with special, durable tracks since much of it was built over permafrost.

History

The route of the present-day BAM was first considered in the 1880s as an option for the eastern section of the Trans-Siberian railway.

The section from Tayshet to Bratsk was built in the 1930s. Most of the Far Eastern section was built during the years of 1944-1946, mainly by gulag prisoners, including German and Japanese prisoners of war, of whom possibly as many as 150,000 died.Fact|date=February 2007 In 1953, following Stalin's death, virtually all construction work on the BAM stopped and the line was abandoned to the elements for more than twenty years. However, interest in the project never waned in part because of strained relations with China—a Chinese attack on the border-tracing Trans-Siberian railway would have cut off transportation to the Russian far eastFact|date=July 2007.

In March 1974, Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev stated that a new BAM project would become a huge Komsomol undertaking. Brezhnev famously stated that "BAM will be constructed with clean hands only!" and firmly rejected the suggestion to use prison labor again. The Soviet Union described BAM as "the construction project of the century." In September 1984, a "golden spike", akin to one used in Utah in 1869, was hammered into place, connecting the eastern and western sections of the BAM. The Western media was not invited to attend this historic event as Soviet officials did not want any comments about the line's operational status and working conditions of the construction workers. In reality, only one third of the BAM's track was fully operational for civilians, due to military reasons.

The BAM and its creators have been criticised for their bad planning. Infrastructure and basic services like running water were often not in place when workers arrived. The abuse of alcohol was extremely high and a lot workers left after a year, when their contracts expired. At least 60 boomtowns developed around the route, but nowadays a lot of these places are deserted and unemployment in the area is high. The building of the BAM has also been criticised for its complete lack of environmental protection.

BAM was again declared complete in 1991. By then, the total cost to build the line was US$14 billion.

A recent major improvement was the opening of the 15.343 km (9.534 mile) Severomuysky Tunnel on December 5, 2003. It is up to 1.5 km (nearly 1 mile) deep. Construction took twenty-seven years to complete. Prior to this, the corresponding route segment was 54 km (34 miles) long, with heavy slopes necessitating the use of auxiliary locomotives.

The railway now attracts thousands of Western railway enthusiasts each year.

Route

The BAM departs from the Trans-Siberian railway at Tayshet, then crosses the Angara River at Bratsk and the Lena River at Ust-Kut, proceeds past Severobaikalsk at the northern tip of Lake Baikal, past Tynda and Khani, crosses the Amur River at Komsomolsk-na-Amure and finally reaches the Pacific Ocean at Sovetskaya Gavan. Of the whole route, the Tayshet-Taksimo sector of 1,469 km (913 miles) is electrified. There are 21 tunnels along the line, with a total length of 47 km (29 miles). There are also more than 4,200 bridges, with a total length of over 400 km (about 260 miles).

Honors

Main belt asteroid 2031 BAM, discovered in 1969 by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Chernykh, is named in honor of the builders of BAM. [cite book | last = Schmadel | first = Lutz D. | coauthors = | title = Dictionary of Minor Planet Names | pages = p. 164 | edition = 5th | year = 2003 | publisher = Springer Verlag | location = New York | url = http://books.google.com/books?q=2031+BAM+TC2 | id = ISBN 3540002383]

References

* Yates, Athol & Zvegintzov, Nicholas "Siberian BAM Guide: Rail, Rivers & Road" (1995, 2nd edition 2001, Trailblazer Publications, England) ISBN 1-873756-18-6 [http://trailblazer-guides.com/books/ (see excerpt)]

* Brown, Dale M. and Mann, Martin, editors. "Library of Nations: The Soviet Union". 1985. Time Life Books. Alexandria, Virginia. ISBN 0-8094-5327-4

* Ward, C.J., ‘Selling the “Project of the Century”: Perceptions of the Baikal-Amur Mainline Railway (BAM) in the Soviet Press, 1974-1984’, "Canadian Slavonic Papers" (2001), 75-95.

*Victor L. Mote, ‘BAM after the fanfare: the unbearable ecumene’, in: John M. Steward, (ed.), "The Soviet environment: problems, policies and politics" (Cambridge 1990), 40-54.

External links

*


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