Tsarskoye Selo railway opened in Russia

11 November 1837

October 30 (November 11), 1837 in St. Petersburg was officially opened Russia's first passenger railway between St. Petersburg, Tsarskoe Selo and Pavlovsk.

15 (27) April, 1836 was promulgated the Decree of Emperor Nicholas I on the approval of the “Regulations on the establishment of cooperative association for the construction of a railroad from St. Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo with extension up to Pavlovsk”. The founders of the association were: master of ceremonies of the Imperial Household Count Alexei Bobrinsky, merchants Benedikt Cramer and Ivan Conrad Plit and an Austrian nobleman Franz von Gerstner.

The construction of the railway commenced on 1 (13) May, 1836. It was led by an Austrian engineer, professor of Vienna University of Technology Franz Gerstner.

The entire route, except for the area adjacent to St. Petersburg, which was not acquired by the association, was divided into sections given over to contractors and artels of 30-40 people. Technical construction management was performed by 17 engineers, five of which had already carried out similar work on the railways of Britain. Excavation works carried out by hand, long-distance transportation was made by carting.

In the midst of the construction about 1,8 thousand workers were engaged on the track (peasants of Petersburg Province, Vologda Province and other surrounding provinces) and 1,4 thousand soldiers of the paramilitary construction battalions of the General Directorate of Railways.

Rolling stock, rails and rail fasteners were purchased abroad, but some cars for freight, steam machines for water supply, water pipes, travel arrangements were made in St. Petersburg. Originally the railroad was built from St. Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo but was later extended to the suburban town of Pavlovsk, the total length of the route rose to 27 km.

The first test journey of a horse-drawn train from Tsarskoye Selo to Pavlovsk took place on September 27 (October 9), 1836.

3 (15) November the first steam engine was brought to the railroad from England and 6 (18) November took place test drives of a steam locomotive on the stretch between Tsarskoe Selo - Pavlovsk. By the time of the opening of the road Russia obtained 6 locomotives, 44 passenger and 19 freight cars bought in Britain and Belgium. Steam locomotives were created on the basis used in Europe for the types of locomotives being in use, but the some changes were made to their structure due to the increased track width (1829 mm). At the request of Gerstner, steam locomotives were required to have the power of 40 horsepower and be able to move several cars with three hundred passengers with the speed of 40 versts per hour.

Grand opening of the Tsarskoe Selo Railway took place on 30 October (November 11) 1837. Distinguished guests and numerous residents of the capital gathered at the newly constructed building of the station on Zagorodnyj prospectus. F. Gerstner got on the locomotive and at 12:30 a. m. a train of 8 cars moved away from the platform. 35 minutes later the train arrived at Tsarskoe Selo. On the way back Gerstner, willing to demonstrate all the opportunities of the railroad and locomotive, developed a fantastic speed for the time, bridging all the way from St. Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo in 27 min. The average speed was 51 km/h, at times it exceeded 60 km/h. St. Petersburg Gazette wrote the next day: “Sixty miles per hour, terrible to think ... Meanwhile, you sit quietly, you do not notice this speed, terrifying imagination, only the wind whistles, just a horse blazes with a fiery lather, leaving behind a white cloud of steam. What is the force that carries all these huge crews with the swiftness of the wind in the desert, which destroys the power of space, consumes time? This force is a man’s intellect!".

After the opening of the road the completion work began, and trains (one or two pairs) circulated only on Sundays and public holidays. From January 31 (12 February), 1838 began the daily circulation of the two pairs of horse-drawn trains. From 4 (16) April1838only the locomotive-drawn trains were used. In 1838, the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology created a locomotive "Agile" for Russia's first railway.

Rates at Tsarskoye Selo railway, established in 1838, did not change significantly until the second half of 1870. The fare for a journey from the capital to Tsarskoe Selo in the first class coach was 75 kopecks in silver, in the second class – 50 kopecks, in the third class – 35 kopecks and in the fourth - 20 kopeks. Travel tickets were made of brass and called "cans." They were reusable, so the administration did not spend anything for their reproduction. From April 1860 the railway administration replaced "cans" with paper tickets of different colors: for the 1st class coaches they were white, for the 2nd class - pink and the 3rd class - green.

At the grand meeting of the Imperial Russian Technical Society which marked the 50th anniversary of the start of construction of railways in Russia, it was noted that "Tsarskoe Selo Railway in respect of its general importance for the network of Russian railways and the purpose of its construction, will be regarded as a memorable Poteshny Regiment and the boat of Emperor Peter I, which provided Russia with glorious and victorious Guard, Army and Navy".

Lit.: Авдеев О. Т. Царскосельская железная дорога. М., 2006; Виргинский В. С. Первая железная дорога в России // Вопросы истории естествознания и техники. 1987. №4; Гольянов А. Л., Закревская Г. П. Акционерное общество «Царскосельская железная дорога» // Железнодорожный транспорт. 2005. № 9; От заводской чугунки к Царскосельской железной дороге // Железнодорожный транспорт. 2007. № 9; Соловьева А. М. Железнодорожный транспорт в России во второй половине 19 века. М., 1975; Царскосельская железная дорога: Зимнее движение поездов. СПб., 1887; Царскосельской железной дороге — 165 лет: Первый поезд встретили аплодисментами // Царскосельская газета. 2 ноября 2002. № 86 (9408); Царскосельская железная дорога // Железнодорожный транспорт: энциклопедия. М., 1995; Чарноцкая Л. П. Первая железная дорога в России //Вопросы истории. 1988. №4.

Based on the Presidential Library’s materials:

Сборник сведений о железных дорогах в России. СПб., 1867-1875. Отд. 3: Высочайшие повеления, указы Правительствующего сената и министерские постановления. 1867;

160th anniversary of the first government railway in Russia grand opening // On this day. 13 November.