Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Birth of the Russian Railway System

The Birth of the Russian Railway System

Robert Young tells us that -

"The duty of introducing (and delivering) the Locomotive to Russia devolved upon Timothy Hackworth's eldest son - John Wesley Hackworth, then, 16 years (as from his birthday in May 1836)."

David Burke wrote in 1956 "Exactly 120 years ago a 16 year old English boy gave Russia her first railway engine. His name John Wesley Hackworth (the middle name Wesley was changed to William for the journey out of respect for the Orthodox Russian Church). He faced blizzards,wolvesand misfortune -and at the end of his journey,crowds cheered him,priests blessed him and he received the Tsar's congratulations.Yet today the Soviets have rubbed his name, the name of this remarkable lad from the history books,and hardly anything is known of him,even in the west."

Before we get to the story of the delivery of the first locomotive to Russia in 1836 by John Wesley Hackworth and his team, here is some of the background going back as far as 1816, when the Grand Duke (later Tsar) Nicholas 1 visited England.

Nicholas 1 of Russia visits England in 1816

"The Grand Duke Nicholas 1 of Russia had, while on a visit to England in 1816, had seen the
Blenkinsop steam engine working on the Leeds Middleton Colliery line. This type of engine, of which the first was tried in 1812, derived its motion from a central cog or toothed wheel which engaged with a rack forming part of the rail. This friction was not relied upon and the carrying wheels merely rolled and took no drive..Heavy loads were hauled and the system excited the future Tsar's interest." 
The Times On this day August 19 1937.

It seems, from what Robert Young says, that Middleton Colliery wasn't the only visit made - 

Robert Young Timothy Hackworth and the Locomotive p276 / 7
"Years before, Russian archdukes had visited Wylam and had seen the Puffing Billy and Wylam Dilly, which Timothy Hackworth had built to Hedley's design and this is probably why the order was given to Timothy Hackworth." 

As we shall see, Timothy Hackworth wasn't the only Locomotive engineer to be invited to supply an engine for Russia. Hackworth's team was the first to arrive, deliver, set up and launch an engine in Russia.

George Turner Smith in his recent book Thomas Hackworth  (Locomotive Engineer)(Fonthill Media 2015) Chapter 4 The Russian Engine p47 says that -
"Russia was a late starter regarding railways. Although there was an obvious need for good communication between urban centres in such a vast country, in 1836 transport had advanced little since the Middle Ages...As a twenty year old, the Grand Duke Nicholas 1 had the privilege of seeing the future at first hand....John Blenkinsop employed and favoured the 'rack and pinion' system...which if reliable were not intended for speed. Nevertheless the railway must have impressed the future Tsar because on his return to Russia he persuaded his father, Alexander 1 to commision a report on the cost and feasibility of a national railway network - a report so complicated it was still unfinished at the time of Alexander's death eight years later in 1824............By the mid 1830's, Russia was now 30 years behind Britain in terms of railway technology, and Nicholas reluctantly acknowledged that every element,from track construction to locomotive manufacture, would have to be imported. There were already one or two small private railways operating throughout the empire,but they nearly all used horses for traction."

Kevin Fink in The Beginnings of Railways in Russia adds "A few mines and factories in the Urals used tramways to move ore or products but they used horses or men to pull the carts over short distances."

Tsar Nicholas 1 had other reservations, how would British engines fare under the demands of severe Russian winters and on health and safety grounds thought that British engines "were dangerous and ran over people" but Franz Anton von Gestner gave the examples of American railways and the Linz-Budweis Railway to show that they could operate under severe winter weather conditions.

George Turner Smith says (p50 of Thomas Hackworth)
 "The need for a more efficient transport system in Russia became more urgent after a series of border skirmishes with Russia's neighbours and Nicholas was forced into giving his railway project greater priority. The first stage was the construction of a railway from the Baltic port of St.Petersburg to Moscow. Designed to be constructed in short sections, each section was independently financed from private investment and a Czechoslovakian  engineer called Franz von Gerstner was invited to oversee the project."

Fear of Political Upheavals

Kevin Fink tells us - "The main problem in deciding whether to allow the building of railways was "
always financial, not political. The fear of political and social upheavals was raised by the press and occasionally by some officials, but the Tsar and most of his high officials did not consider that a problem. Nicholas I thought that the introduction of technological innovations from abroad would strengthen the existing order, not weaken it. Because of the scarcity of capital and the large amount required for railway construction, the success or failure of these ventures would have a large effect on the Russian state. Thus the tsar and his paternalistic government were much more cautious about economic effects of railways than other countries.

The first  15 miles of single track were laid down between St. Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo,where the Tsar had his Summer Palaces.

"On January 6, 1835, an Austrian engineer by the name of Franz Anton von Gerstner sent a letter to Nicholas I proposing to provide Russia with an extensive railway system. "This was the first concrete proposal ever made to provide Russia with such a system" (Haywood, 1969, p. 74). Von Gestner gave his qualifications as the engineer of the first public railway on the European continent (the Danube-Moldavia line) and cited the advantages which railway construction had brought to other countries, including England, France, Germany, and America. He cited the Liverpool-Manchester Railway, which had helped British trade as well as providing a fast and inexpensive transport system for travelers. He also mentioned the help which it had provided in troop movements to quell disorders in Ireland, a point well-taken by Nicholas I.....

However Gerstner, he was unable to raise sufficient capital for the St. Petersburg to Moscow line, and had to abandon that in favor of the shorter line to Tsarskoe Selo. Von Gerstner was able to raise sufficient capital for this line, mostly through a few large investors including Count A. A. Bobrinskii (an enlightened landowner interested in science and technology), Benedict Kramer (director of the Russian American Company), and Johann Plitt (consul of the Free City of Frankfurt am Main).

The proposed route for the railway started in a large square near the center of St. Petersburg near the junction of the Fontanka and Vedenskii canals. It traveled along the Vedenskii Canal at street level to the Obvodnyi Canal, which would be crossed by a substantial bridge. Then a short curve (the only one on the entire route) would lead to a straight, fairly flat line to the Apollon Church in Pavlovsk Park." Kevin Fink (Read more on the development of the Russian Railways HERE)

And from Russian Locomotives Volume 1 1836-1904 AD Pater and FM Page
Russian Locomotives Volume 1 1836 - 1904 A D de Pater FM Page

Tsarskoe - Selo Railway (St. Petersburg - Pavlovsk) 
"The first passenger carrying railway in Russia, this line was built to the 6'0" (1830 mm) gauge, and remained unique and separate until it was taken over by the Moscow-Vindava-Rybinsk Railway in 1897 following which in was altered to 1524 mm gauge in 1902, giving that line access to St Petersburg.

Chevalier vo Gerstner, in his third report, gives a lot of background information on the early history of the line. The Tsar Nicholas 1 had expressed a wish to connect St. Petersburg with Moscow by a railway in September 1834, and during von Gerstner's travels in Russia, he was presented to the Tsar and as a result was granted, on 21st December 1835, the personal privilege of forming companies to build both the Tsarskoe-Selo, and the the Peterhof lines, though he died before the latter was effected.

The Imperial Ukase for the construction of the Tsarskoe- Selo line was sealed on 21st March 1836.Eight days later, von Gerstner set off on a 7500 km journey to purchase the materials for his new line. In Belgium he ordered a locomotive from John Cockerill of seraing for 40,000 francs, delivered, in Dublin, twenty wagon underframes; in Liverpool, two locomotives from Charles Tayleur (Vulcan Foundry) and ten carriage trucks from Jones and Creigh (Jones and Potts); in Manchester, a crane but no locomotives from Sharp Roberts, while in newcastle he ordered two locomotives from Timothy Hackworth. Of the latter four engines, one from each maker was to be shipped before the 10th September, under penalty of £500.

Hackworth's Engine the first to arrive.
The locomotive from Hackworth was the first to arrive in St. Petersburg on 3rd October (Russian Calendar) on board the Barbara from Stockton * followed by the first Stephenson engine nine days later,on the Caspian from Newcastle, while a further nine days elapsed before the Sirus from Antwerp brought the Cockerill engine.The diaries kept by Hackworth's son. and by Thomas Wardropper, in charge of the team of fitters which accompanied Stephenson's engine have both survived, and give a picture of friendly rivalry and competition to have the engine ready first,won by the Hackworth team, though it was to Stephenson that the railway later turned for spares for all the engines."

The rest of this article can be seen at the end of this page as a PDF file.

This is an interesting video on the St.Petersburg to Tsarskoye Selo line and its history. Although it's in Russian, there is a visual narrative in English for none Russian speakers. There is however no mention of Timothy or John wesley Hackworth - although George Stephenson gets a mention towards the end.

Links to check out

Russian Locomotives Volume 1 1836 - 1904 extracts
AD Pater - FM Page

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