Circumbaikal RailroadIn the Summer 2003 the first one-day tour on the Circumbaikal Line was organized by the Suburban Directorate of the Eastern-Siberian Railway. The route goes from Irkutsk to Sludianka and then to Port-Baikal. It became the most distinguished event for the summer period. Today it is also possible to make this trip by modern comfortable electric train "Baikal Express", which consists from cars with different categories. First and second class couches are equipped with soft seats, TV-sets, centralized audio system, biological toilets. In the bar-car (dining-car) hot meals and varied drinks are offered for passengers. In the business class car there is a wider variety of services to be offered: breakfast, midday meal, great assortment of drinks, waiter servicing, excursions in foreign languages. Some stops are provided on the way in the most beautiful places and outings accompanied by a skilled guide to the most interesting historical and architectural objects on this line. In connection with a long trip (12 hours) one longer stop by the Cap Poloviny is settled. There a picnic can be organized or You can swim in one of Baikal small bays or become acquainted with the life of simple local people.
History of Circumbaikal Railroad
Further Baikal extended on the way of this railroad. It was possible to go around the lake from the South or from the North. Distinguished Russian geologist that time Ivan Mushketov chose after careful examination of both possibilities the alternative to build this section of the Trans-Siberian Railroad on the southern shore of Baikal from Port -Baikal to Kultuk.
Today the Trans-Siberian Railway is called the Circumbaikal Line. Extension of this line is 84 km. This is the shortest but the most difficult section of the whole railroad. There are some words about construction of this railroad. After the exploration of America and the construction of Suez Canal the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway is the most outstanding historical event with many direct and indirect consequences.
At the period of 1902-1904 39 tunnels for double track were built. Labour in these tunnels continued uninterrupted in the daytime and at night from the opposite corners. The Russian-Japanese War made the builders to put into service this line ahead of time. In spite of all difficulties - the terrain between Port-Baikal and Kultuk was virtually one long cliff - 39 tunnels with the length 8000 m were laid, a lot of viaducts, bridges and stone galleries were built. All building materials except for stones and wood were delivered from a distance, the same for sand. Approximately 300 tons of explosives were needed only for making hollows in rocks and cliffs. Two ice-breakers and train- ferry and several barges served for different transportation.
All necessary infrastructure was organized on this line: railway stations and stops, hydraulic constructions on the rails, water towers, watch points, apartments and other auxiliary buildings. Some elements of this structure remained and are guarded and restored by the Eastern-Siberian Railway. They fulfill their direct functions and also serve for tourist purposes.
But that time there were only few local people, skilled in building or stonework. That is why workers of the Circum-baikal Line were mostly from the central part of Russia, and also from Chine, America, Italia.
Every tunnel has its own name: for example "the tunnel to penal ser-vitude" or "the thick tunnel" or "the cormorant tun-nel". The longest one is 776m and it is called - Polovinny -"a half tunnel". But there are some tunnels here, which are very short, only 19-23 m. The most important stonework for example laying of stones by building of arches the best contractors did. Nevertheless accidents by laying tunnels happened not seldom.
After construction of the electric plant and the dam not far from Irkutsk the Irkutsk water reservoir rose and flooded partly the plot of land between Irkutsk and Port-Baikal. The railway was transferred to the mountains and a new length of the Trans-Siberian Railway from Irkutsk to Kultuk was laid. Today this length lies apart from the main route of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Mostly old-timers remained to live in a few small settlements. They remember that time, when rolling stock consisted of 40 locomotives, of 82 passenger and 776 freight cars. But every year there are more and more tourists here. Such trains as "Orient-Express" and "Russia" come here and bring hundreds of germane travelers. There is one more train here, it is called the "Circumbaikal Express", which plies from Irkutsk to Sludian-ka and Port-Baikal and carries more than 6000 tourists during the summer and not only Russian, but tourists from Korea, Japan, Europe, America.
And nowadays researches, people looking for relics of the past, people on vocation don't cease to be surprised at this fortification system: tunnels, viaducts, galleries, retaining walls, which are surprisingly firm and elegance at the same time. Power of creative activity and inspiration can be felt here in other artificial constructions to: chutes, stone laying. Even little mountain springs, brooks and streams flowing to Baikal were ennobled by the builders. By construction attention was paid to everything: to shore relief, to condition of rocks, to water depth. The roadbed is laid right on vertical cliffs sinking into Baikal. Picturesque landscapes and unusual combination of virgin nature with architecture of engineering constructions, natural character of this combination with surroundings attract us.
This is not only a historical monument, which reflects heroic period of construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is also an integral part of tourist resource in the Baikal region and a tourist object, which attracts both Russian and foreign tourists. Actually the Circumbaikal Line is an architectural-landscape preserve, where on the relatively small plot of land there is a great amount of different engineering constructions, which are not only unique, but also very picturesque.
This place is really unique and interesting I from the tourist point of view, because of the possibility for tourist firms to show their clients all these attractions in all seasons and to choose for them all possible versions - everything from one-day trips till worth its full value rest in a tourist center or youth hostel, which keep getting more and more and appear, where there were short stretches of double track. All these factors make us to consider the Circumbaikal to be an object great potential and we hope, that this potential will be successful realized.