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Anniversary of the first government railway in Russia grand opening

13 November 1851

The oldest main line in Russia was constructed in the middle of 19th century to provide railway service between St.-Petersburg and Moscow.

The history of St.-Petersburg-Moscow railway began on February 1 (13), 1842 when the emperor Nikolai I signed the decree on construction of the railway between St.-Petersburg and Moscow. A special Committee was established to conduct the works. Among the members of the Committee along with  the official representatives of the state power (P.A. Kleinmikhel, A.H. Benkerdoff, A.A. Bobrinsky)  there were technical directors and creators of the construction project (P.P. Melnikov, N.O. Kraft, K.V. Chevkin).

Research and construction works had been conducted during 10 years (184201851) and had required significant financial investments, original technical decisions, participation of many Russian and foreign experts and a great amount of manpower. In the railway construction had participated over 800 thousand workers, mostly from serves.

On some parts of St.-Petersburg-Moscow railway the train service started already in 1846. And on November 1 (13) 1851 the official grand opening of the main line took place. The first “public” train left for Moscow. “St.-Petersburg bulletin” wrote: “The 1st of November will always remain the memorial day for Russia: on this day the railway that connects two our capitals, the head and the heart of Russia, was opened for public”.

The first “public” train consisted of the engine, two second-class sleepers, three third-class sleepers and one luggage van. 192 passengers went on the maiden trip. The train left St.-Petersburg at 11:15 a.m. and arrived to Moscow at 9:00 a.m. the following day. The whole trip took 21 hours 45 minutes.

In the middle of 19th century St.-Petersburg-Moscow main line was the most technically equipped and the longest double-line railway in the world – its length was 604 verst (644 km).

In 1855 the new line and the railway station in the capital were named after the emperor Nikolai I. After the revolution, in 1923, Nikolai railway was renamed to October railway and the railway station was given the name that it has been having until today – Moskovsky. 

Lit.: Великин Б. Петербург — Москва. Постройка дороги. 1842-1851. Л.; М., 1935; Уродков С. А. Петербурго-Московская железная дорога. История строительства (1842-1851). Л., 1951; Зензинов Н. А. От Петербург-Московской до Байкало-Амурской магистрали, М., 1986.

Октябрьская железная дорога: сайт. 2003-2018. URL:

From the Presidential library materials:

Tsarskoye Selo railway opened in Russia // On this day. 11 November 1837;

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