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[Since this article upon the new Trans-Siberian Railway, which the writer has just returned from visiting, was put in type, some of the effects of the undertaking have discovered themselves. The newspapers of December 8, 1896, published the terms of a treaty concluded at Pekin by Count Cassini, the Russian Minister, in which the port of Kiaochou, in the province of Shantung, is offered to Russia on temporary lease, and facilities are given for that railway extension in Manchuria, in connection with the Trans-Siberian Railway, to which the reader will find a reference in the closing pages of the paper. - ED.]
WHEN in the years to come men will review the greater undertakings of the nineteenth century, it will be hard to find a rival to the Trans-Siberian Railway. Winding across the illimitable plains of Orenburg, traversing the broad Urals, spanning the widest rivers, such as the Irtish, Ob, and Yenesei, it creeps around the southern end of Lake Baikal, and mounts the plateau of far Trans - Baikalia. Thereafter, leaving behind it the
Yablonovoi Hills, the line descends into the valley of the Amur, exchanges it for that of the Ussuri, and ends at last in Vladivostock. Such is, in brief, the course of this vast enterprise.
For long, Russia has been feeling her way towards the open ocean. It is as if she were being choked for want of air. The White Sea and the Arctic Ocean enchained in Polar ice, the Baltic similarly blocked for half the year,
1 Copyright, 1897, by J. Y. Simpson in the United States of America.
VOL. CLXI.-NO. DCCCCLXXV.
the Black Sea closed in yet another way, and finally the land-locked Caspian, cannot satisfy her. In face of this, she has been compelled to seek the shores of the Pacific Ocean. As early as the middle of the seventeenth century a handful of intrepid Russian pioneers had gained the barren Okhotsk coast and founded the town that bears that name. was only however to find that here the same conditions prevailed as on their western Baltic, and the disappointed explorers involuntarily turned their eyes towards the kindlier south. Soon a party of Cossacks and hunters, passing through Trans-Baikalia, took possession of some land on the upper Amur. Gradually the whole territory on the left bank of that river came into Russian hands, though it was General Muravieff who in 1854, during the progress of the Crimean war, played the greatest part in the work of annexation. From about four or five years later dates the appearance of Siberian railway effort.
Not only were there numerous Russian proposals for the exploitation of the country, but it stands on record that Collins, an American, and Morison and Horn, two Englishmen, were also among the first projectors. Nothing, however, was done. Some of the plans submitted were interesting, and it was quite a new idea to learn how far one could go across Siberia by simply making a canal between one of the tributaries of the Ob and the Yenesei. By means of the natural waterways one could thus reach the Baikal Lake and ascend the Selenga; thereafter all that was necessary would be to cross the Yablonovoi watershed and descend into the valley of the Amur.
It was only in the beginning of
the "eighties," however, that the railroad scheme began to be seriously considered. Discussion first centred round the questions as to which route should be followed, how the course of a railway could be most conveniently parcelled out, and whether it would be advisable to carry it right across Siberia. The last point was decided in the affirmative, mainly owing to a marked change for the better in financial prospects about this time. As to whether this railway should be a continuation from Tiumen on the Ural line, from Miass on the Samara - Zlatoüst line, or simply of that which runs to Orenburg, it was, however, not so easy to decide. Eventually in February 1891 it was resolved to lay a track from Miass to Tcheliabinsk, and to carry on the survey from that town to Tomsk. Lastly, would it be enough to make a commencement in any one place merely, or, on the contrary, would it be advisable to begin operations at different points? In the latter case the construction of the middle portion of the Siberian Railway could be hastened by two years, and there appeared a possibility of entering on that of the TransBaikal portion even before the rails would be laid to Irkutsk. In view of these considerations, the Committee declared in favour of simultaneous commencement at different points.
This is a Russian project with which the reigning Tzar is peculiarly connected. During his journey through Siberia in 1891, while yet Tzarevitch, he became personally acquainted with every aspect of the undertaking, its difficulties and advantages. The execution of this colossal project is largely due to his great interest and enthusiasm in he matter. At Vladivostock the work was
formally inaugurated: Nicholas II. wheeled away the first barrowful of earth and placed the first stone in position. Thereafter a start was made from either end.
To carry on this undertaking, a Committee was appointed by the late Emperor Alexander III. It was to consist, amongst others, of the Ministers of Interior, of Agriculture and State Domains, of Finance, of Ways and Communications, and of War, and the Director of the Admiralty. The present Emperor was elected its first president by his father; and when, later on, he had to ascend the throne, he insisted on holding this position along with his other arduous duties. This Committee had no executive power; it was simply administrative, and when in difficulty, was required to refer to its imperial founder.
The first natural instinct was to hand over the execution of this project to the Direction of the Government railways. Later, however, it was thought that its gigantic nature would exhaust the resources of that department, and accordingly in June 1893 the direct construction of the railway was taken out of the hands of the Minister of Ways and Communications, and a new distinct branch of his department was instituted to carry the matter through. This new branch was thus, in a sense, under the Minister of Ways and Communications, and had power to see to the purchase of the rollingstock, as also to arrange direct contracts, without being limited
4. Mîsovskaya to 1009 versts; estimated cost, 53 million roubles.
5. Srjetensk to Khabarovka, 2000 versts; estimated cost, 117 million roubles.
6. Khabarovka to Grafskaya, 347 versts; estimated cost, 18 million roubles.
7. Grafskaya to Vladivostock, 382 versts; estimated cost, 17 million roubles: being in all, roughly, 350 million roubles.
Such, at least, is the original plan and estimate. But it may be of interest to mention here that, while on the comparatively simple first section the actual cost has been some nine million roubles less than the estimate, on the second section, which involves cutting a way through the Taiga or forest zone, the estimate will be exceeded. The third section will be the most difficult, and, comparatively, the most costly, as the road will have to be cut through the cliffs which rise from
1 Calculating the verst as mile, and the rouble as 2s. roughly, we find that the following figures represent the length and estimated cost of the different sections respectively: (1) 885 miles, £4,700,000; (2) 1169 miles, £7,300,000; (3) 195 miles, £2,200,000; (4) 673 miles, £5,300,000; (5) 1333 miles, £11,700,000; (6) 231 miles, £1,800,000; (7) 255 miles, £1,700,000. Total length and estimate-4741 miles, £35,000,000.
the margin of Lake Baikal to a considerable height.1
By the 15th June 1895 one quarter of the line had been laid; but it is improbable that the whole will be finished before 1905. The following figures show the numbers of workmen employed on the West, Middle, Trans-Baikalian, and Ussuri divisions of the line: 36,629 navvies, 13,080 carters, 5851 surfacemen, 4310 carpenters, 4096 stone-masons, 2091 riveters, -in round numbers, 62,000 men. Also, to meet the demand for official servants and experts, technical schools of engineering have been opened in the towns of Omsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Khabarovka.
The other Departments of State have combined to lend a helping hand. Thus the Ministry of Agriculture and State Domains supplies and delivers gratis whatever timber may be required in the construction of the railway. The War Department has employed many of its men in survey and map-making, especially on the Amur, so as to get the best line through Khabarovka. In short, it is a work on which official Russia is quietly priding herself, and looking forward to the time when she will have a railroad twice as long as that which now unites New York and San Francisco.
The train, then, that, passing along the continuation of the Samara-Miass line, conducts the traveller on his way towards far Siberia, commences its journey at Tula. Here it was that we first came into contact with an Eastern emigration movement that has, during the past summer, been at once so sad and so remarkable.
One of the platforms was literally crowded with a mass of homeless humanity, drawn mostly from the southern and more thickly populated parts of Russia, such as the government of Poltava. It was nearly midnight, and in small family groups the emigrants had clustered round their few belongings, which were stowed away in sacks and baskets,-more rarely, wooden boxes. Over their little heaps of worldly goods they had spread sheepskins or blankets of coarse texture: piled up on these the children lay and slept, wrapped in their shubas (sheepskin coat), with the white hide outermost. Commonly one parent rested by them and the other watched, and it was hard to find a group without a babe. Some men and women wore a timid air, born of sheer helplessness. Most of the men, however, had the dull dogged look of driven cattle: an intelligent face you would have sought more successfully amongst their wives. Thus they reclined and slept, or talked in low subdued voices, while behind them loomed the dark red waggons with their significant inscription, "8 horses - 40 men," that were to carry them from the land of their nativity. Meanwhile men were at work on these mobilisation cars, fitting up an internal arrangement of boards, in order to render them more fit for human habitation during the week or so of railway journey to the East.
As this emigration question assumed somewhat alarming proportions during the past summer, it may be as well to offer a few remarks upon it.
For several years this movement to the East has been in pro
1 The average cost of laying one verst of the railway is 22,000 roubles (£2200).