Friday, September 7, 2007

Everybody goes to BAM!

Baikal-Amur Mainline is the construction project of the century!
1977, Babin N. S., Ovasapov I. T., Jakushin A. B.

The Baikal-Amur Mainline (unofficial website) is the second largest railroad in Russia, with a length of 4,234 km (2,305 mile). BAM traverses Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East and runs about 600 km (450 miles) north of and parallel to the Trans-Siberian railway (the largest railroad in the world, covering over 1/3 of the circumference of the Earth with its 10,000 km (6 000 miles) tracks).

BAM was built in the course of 20th century as an alternative to the Trans-Siberian Railway, especially along the vulnerable sections close to the border with China. It has special durable tracks which are capable of supporting soviet rocket trains, equipped with nuclear warheads, which were designed to be a Soviet response to SDI.

BAM construction started in the thirties by Bamlag – a corrective labor camp and a part of notorious Gulag. During WW2 some of the BAM’s partly built tracks were disassembled to form strategic route to Stalingrad, where the biggest and the bloodiest battle in the history of human kind took place – the Battle of Stalingrad.

After Stalin’s death in 1953 the works on BAM stopped as there were no more Gulags with its free labor force and the project turned out to be too expensive. Only in 1974 when the Cold War was in full swing and there was increasing tension between China and the Soviet Union, the project was given a green light.

Huge funding was provided for BAM. It was called the “komsomol construction project of the century”, with numerous young komsomol members sent there to work for decent wages. The poster above was a part of BAM recruitment campaign.

The main part of the BAM was declared open in 1984, with some of the areas (like the ending bridge and the station in Yakutsk) are still being built.

BAM is a fantastic engineering project. It traverses 11 major rivers and seven mountain ridges. There were 8 big tunnels cut through the mountains. One of them is the Severomuyskiy tunnel (15 km), which is the longest tunnel in Russia (18th longest in the world). Also check picture of the “Chertov bridge” (Devil’s bridge), which shows the scale of the obstacles had to be overcome during the construction.