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Building the BAM

Article #290 • Written by Matt Castle

The Soviet engineers gazed into the abandoned tunnel with dismay. It was 1974 and work was scheduled to resume on the construction of the Baikal-Amur Magistral (BAM), a railway line in north-eastern Siberia. The Dusse-Alin Tunnel had been completed in an earlier phase of the undertaking, as evidenced by the inscription “1947-1950” over the entrance and the busts of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin that earlier workers had hewn out of the nearby rock. But the harsh climate and intervening years had not been kind to the permafrost-piercing passage. Peering into the gaping hole, the worried workers could see something glinting inside. The BAM project, perhaps the greatest civil engineering endeavour the world has ever seen, had encountered yet another problem.

'BAM' was conceived in the 1930s as a northerly relief line for the furthermost stretch of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the tenuous track that traverses the cold and massive expanse of Siberia. Stalin, ever-alert to potential threats, had sensed danger in the original route's close proximity to the Chinese border. In the years between the world wars, much of eastern China was occupied by hostile Japanese forces and the Soviets felt keenly the vulnerability of their vital trans-continental link. In addition to its military-strategic value, it was believed that the new route would replicate the success of its southern predecessor and open up vast chunks of resource-rich Siberia for settlement and industrialization.

Siberia at night, with its string of Trans-Siberian railway cities aglow.
Siberia at night, with its string of Trans-Siberian railway cities aglow.

In a part of the world where the automobile has yet to assert its dominance-- there is still no continuous surfaced highway linking Moscow to the port of Vladivostok in the far southeast-- the original Trans-Siberian Railway still plays a vital role in Russia's economy. Satellite images taken at night demonstrate how Siberia's larger population centres are clumped along the railroad's 6000 mile-long path, a testament to the importance of the line for these cities' past and present existence.

The railway was one of the last great achievements of Imperial Russia, being finally completed in 1916-- the year of prior to the Bolshevik Revolution. Although it spurred development and slashed journey times across Russia from months or years to mere days or weeks, its construction was far from easy. The project was costly and tragic owing to the extreme temperatures and difficult terrain. Indeed, some historians have implicated the railway in the overthrow of the Tsars; had the railway construction not diverted long-promised social reform funds, the huddled masses may have been placated.

But the difficulties in constructing the original line paled into insignificance compared to those of building its younger awkward twin, the BAM. Permafrost, earthquakes, unusual geology, labour problems, Soviet centralized planning-- all conspired to make the project vastly expensive in money, effort and the lives of its reluctant workers. Whereas the full length of the Trans-Siberian Railway took twenty-five years to construct, the 2000 mile BAM extension took almost three quarters of a century to complete. The fascination of the Soviet authorities in pursuing the project eerily mirrors that of their Tsarist forebears for the original Trans-Siberian Railroad.

Section of the BAM today: image courtesy of http://bam.railways.ru/
Section of the BAM today: image courtesy of http://bam.railways.ru/

In the 1930s Stalin's notorious purges provided plenty of potential workers-- willing or otherwise-- for the job. The dictator was keen to keep the project secret from prying Western eyes, and the Siberian forced-labour camps-- the gulags-- provided numerous discreet and disposable political prisoners who could be persuaded to try their hand at railroad building and tunnel-digging.

In 1939 workers first arrived on foot at the site of the aforementioned Dusse-Alin Tunnel, one of BAM's first planned constructions. All they had was a single horse, a motorised cart and some hand tools to complete the task. This was typical of the resources allocated to 'BAMlag' prisoners across the whole of the project. Overwork and starvation soon started to thin their numbers, but thanks to the events unfolding in the world outside Siberia, the workforce soon swelled with German and Japanese prisoners-of-war. The death toll among these labourers was horrendous: when the German POWs working on BAM's western end were belatedly repatriated in the late 40s and mid 50s, only 10% of the original 100,000 had survived. 46,000 Japanese POWs also perished in the Soviet Union-- most of whom worked on the BAM in the Russian Far East.

When Stalin died in 1953 the gulags were closed and building of the BAM was halted. But the strategic and economic rationale for the project remained and in the early 70s Leonid Brezhnev ordered a resumption of building work. This time the construction was to be a flagship 'shock' project driven forward by idealistic young communist volunteer heroes, rather than starving political prisoners and POWs.

Work began again in earnest. It was only during this stage of construction that the full extent of the engineering difficulties became apparent. First and foremost was the problem of permafrost. In the BAM area the Siberian year boasts only ninety frost-free days; in the winter temperatures can drop to -60 degrees centigrade. So it's not surprising that under the insulating top layer of moss and grass, the land remains frozen year-round. Cold-tolerant steel was required, and special techniques were needed to prepare the ground for laying the rails: when standard methods were used, the construction vehicles would inevitably scrape away the insulating top layer of vegetation enabling the permafrost to melt in the summer. The hapless workers would soon find themselves in a messy quagmire of swamp and collapsing newly-laid track. Although building on permafrost was not a new problem for the Soviets-- it was known that a foundation of insulating rock laid over the ground would preserve the permafrost and thus the integrity of the track-- the target-driven and idealistic-but-not-necessarily-experienced workers often found themselves cutting corners. Over the course of the project large parts of track and infrastructure had to be repeatedly relaid or rebuilt.

The tunnels were particularly troublesome. The unswerving straight-line commitment of the original Soviet planners meant that in a number of cases, tunnels were built unnecessarily: later geological reviews suggested that acceptable diversions through easier terrain were possible at greatly reduced cost and with minimal increase in the distance of the track. Yet with commendable enthusiasm the Soviets dug onwards. The Dusse-Alin Tunnel was successfully built in the Stalin era without any survey work whatsoever; incredibly, when the two tunnelling teams of BAMlag workers met in the middle, they were out of alignment by only 20cm. But while the passage lay abandoned for twenty years, water seeped in through the bedrock and froze solid. The dismayed railway engineers of 1974 were left with the problem of dealing with 32,000 tonnes of ice blocking the shaft-- and also of disposing of the frozen bodies of the gulag workers they frequently stumbled on while reconditioning the tunnel. When all else failed, the Soviets resorted to raw power. The workers jury-rigged an aircraft jet engine at one end of the tunnel, and hit the ignition. Its stream of superheated exhaust rapidly blasted a path through the wall of ice, clearing the tunnel for further work.

Despite its long and tragic history, the Dusse-Alin Tunnel was not the greatest technical challenge faced by the BAM-builders. That honour goes to the Severomuisk Tunnel, a 15km construction near the north end of Lake Baikal. Earthquakes were one problem-- the stubborn mountain range that blocked the railroad lies in a tectonically active area, and the path of the tunnel crossed four different fault zones. But the first hitch the workers encountered was a touch of damp. While chipping through the mountain a rush of water unexpectedly broke through the tunnel wall. The workers had penetrated an underground lake, pressurized to 35 atmospheres by the bizarre geology of the area. Its contents were rapidly draining into the tunnel, propelled by a compressive force four times that encountered inside an average champagne bottle. The Western experts called in to help were dumbfounded: conditions inside the tunnel were unlike any before encountered. Eventually the Soviets managed to patch up the passage in a novel way: they brought in a large tank of liquid nitrogen, and injected it into the rocks surrounding the leak. The super-cold fluid froze the lake water briefly, long enough to erect a retaining concrete shell. When work started on the Severomuisk tunnel in 1979, the expected completion date was 1986. In fact, it was 2003 before the tunnel was finally opened for freight traffic. Before then, steep and unsatisfactory bypasses were needed to enable some form of a service to be run along the route of the BAM.

Eastern portal of Severomuisk tunnel. Image courtesy of http://bam.railways.ru
Eastern portal of Severomuisk tunnel. Image courtesy of http://bam.railways.ru

The opening of the Severomuisk Tunnel marked the completion of the BAM project as it was originally envisaged. However, even now work continues: much of the line is only single track, and unlike the main Trans-Siberian line, unelectrified. This greatly restricts the tonnage of freight that can be carried, and the railroad is maintained in working order only by the unnecessary diversion of freight trains from the main southern route.

For much of the last twenty years BAM's future has looked bleak. When Gorbachev came to power in 1985 the project emphatically fell out of favour; he decried it as a 'white elephant', realising that the collapsing Soviet system could no longer keep up with the vast financial demands of the construction. Funds earmarked for developing resource-extraction and manufacturing industries in the BAM area were swallowed up by construction of the track itself, and thus much of the proposed development of north-eastern Siberia never took place. With most of the original building work taking place in the context of a Soviet command economy, the cost of the project in its entirety is difficult to calculate-- but some estimates go as high as $30 billion for the whole endeavour, to date. Certainly, the funds directed towards the project in the 70s were equivalent to the level of resources pumped into the Space Race in the 50s and 60s.

Nevertheless, the long term future of BAM looks brighter. The vast untapped mineral resources are still there, ready to be exploited when the ever-fluctuating world economy makes the effort financially worthwhile. With electrification and dual-tracking, the line will be able to take traffic of the same tonnage and speed as that on the original Trans-Siberian route; with the BAM line being 450km shorter, it will start to become an attractive option for sending freight and passengers between the continents of Europe and Asia.

But a recent announcement outlines perhaps the most beguiling prospect for the future of the line: in April of this year, Russian experts published plans for a Bering Strait rail tunnel, linking eastern Siberia with Alaska. This link-- previously considered in bridge-form by capitalists in Tsarist Russia in 1905-- would connect the BAM with the North American rail system, stimulating trans-continental commerce and incidentally enabling continuous rail travel between London and New York, courtesy of the Channel Tunnel. With its vast ambition-- and shaky economic justification-- this idea can be viewed as a worthy successor to that of the original Baikal-Amur Magistral construction project.

Article written by Matt Castle, published on 07 September 2007. Matt is a writer and contributing editor for Damn Interesting, and not quite an anagram of 'Clam Taste'.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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52 Comments
hemmelighet
Posted 07 September 2007 at 01:11 am

DI!

It's amazing how many people were killed during such projects. Take the "Belomorkanal", for instance, which also killed thousands and thousands of prisoners. Unfortunately, this has always been a problem in Russia: peoples' lives were never of much value, until recently. This is one of the reasons why the Soviets had so many casualties during World War II - an astonishing 27,000,000.


pradnk
Posted 07 September 2007 at 02:06 am

Good one.....!


HarleyHetz
Posted 07 September 2007 at 02:31 am

Very nice job Matt, I enjoyed it immensly!!


kwiksand
Posted 07 September 2007 at 02:39 am

I must admit I was shocked to hear that Alaska actually linked to the edge of Siberia. I know the Russians first colonised/landed on Alaska before the American's bought it off them, but I always assumed this was done via sea/ships.

Bah! Thanks Damn Interesting, once again.


CrowdKiller
Posted 07 September 2007 at 04:51 am

I like the idea of going from London to New York without stopping. I think i heard somewhere that there is also a plan to link South America to Africa. This would enable you to go by train (or car maybe?) all around the world. A nice idea would'nt you say?


jennmv
Posted 07 September 2007 at 04:56 am

DI...I can not believe the near sightedness of the project planners to built it straight line rather than building a less expensive and easier course, although as a civil engineer, I guess this stupidity should not surprise me.

I have to disagree with the statement "The BAM project, perhaps the greatest civil engineering endeavour the world has ever seen…" I think there are other projects such as the Panama Canal or the more recent Millau Viaduct, which presented more interesting engineering challenges and smarter engineering decisions during their planning and construction.


Bluesky
Posted 07 September 2007 at 05:03 am

The railway was one of the last great achievements of Imperial Russia, being finally completed in 1916– the year of the Bolshevik Revolution.

1917 is the year of the Bolshevik Revolution, not 1916.

Are there any maps of the BAM railway line, BTW?


HiEv
Posted 07 September 2007 at 05:22 am

kwiksand said: "I must admit I was shocked to hear that Alaska actually linked to the edge of Siberia. I know the Russians first colonised/landed on Alaska before the American's bought it off them, but I always assumed this was done via sea/ships."

Alaska isn't actually linked to the edge of Russia. There is about 65 miles (105 km) of sea between the eastern tip of Russia and the western tip of Alaska's Seward Peninsula. That's why a bridge, and now an underwater tunnel, have been proposed to connect the two.


HiEv
Posted 07 September 2007 at 05:28 am

Bluesky said: "Are there any maps of the BAM railway line, BTW?"

It's the green line on the map shown here:

Wikipedia: Baikal Amur Mainline
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baikal_Amur_Mainline
(or go straight to the larger image here)


Matt Castle
Posted 07 September 2007 at 06:27 am

Bluesky said: "1917 is the year of the Bolshevik Revolution, not 1916."

Pass a large slice of humble pie, please. Don't know how that one got through: the tsar was overthrown in February 1917, and the subsequent Provisional Government was in turn kicked out by the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution of, er, October 1917. Apologies all round.

jennmv said: "I have to disagree with the statement "The BAM project, perhaps the greatest civil engineering endeavour the world has ever seen…" I think there are other projects such as the Panama Canal or the more recent Millau Viaduct, which presented more interesting engineering challenges and smarter engineering decisions during their planning and construction."

Point taken. I guess you can look at the project in terms of technical difficulty, engineering merit and the like, but also in terms of time and expense and sheer blood-and-guts human effort (mis-applied or otherwise). I doubt the BAM could be considered the 'greatest' in any single sense, civil engineering or otherwise, but perhaps --just perhaps!-- in combination. Hey, I've got to grab your attention somehow...


InterestedOne
Posted 07 September 2007 at 06:49 am

The resourcefulness of the Russian people is ingenious if not simplistic. Consider, "The workers jury-rigged an aircraft jet engine at one end of the tunnel, and hit the ignition. " and "they brought in a large tank of liquid nitrogen, and injected it into the rocks surrounding the leak." The solutions were simple, yet effective, not to mention probably cost effective as well by using what I'd guess were available resources. Having spent time in some of the former soviet bloc countries, I've witnessed that resourcefulness first hand. Although the article mentions problems with the BAM now, I have no doubt the problems will be resolved. And..., if done before capitalism takes too big a hold, it will be done well. One of the things I'm sad to see in increasing amounts in the West is planned obsolescence - building something to last only a short while so that more money can be made on parts and repairs. While economically this may be good in that it keeps the people employed and the economy humming, it leads to fewer and fewer lasting feats of mankind's capability for greatness such as demonstrated in the (old or new) 7 Wonders of the world. While I was in some of the former Soviet Bloc countries, I saw some things created to last - although not all - like some cars in the DDR .
While in Kiev, I traveled the metro a lot. The metro is level, and as it's underground escalators are used to get to the platforms. These escalators travel much faster than those in Western department stores - perhaps 4 times as fast. As Kiev is hilly, these escalators are sometimes quite long. One of the longest escalators from one of the highest metro stations in Kiev is several hundreds of meters long. The length means there can be hundreds, and perhaps a thousand or more people on this at any time so the load on the machinery and the torque required to move that load must be enormous. Yet I never saw it down for repairs. I asked several residents and the thought it would not be working due to corrective or preventative maintenance was foreign to them - after all, why would it break? I believe the durability built into mechanical and electrical engineering feats is fading from the West - not completely as displayed by the Chunnel and the Millau Viaduct, or even the Panama and Suez canals, but fading nonetheless as displayed in news reports of the failing man-made structures all over the world - some helped by nature, some on their own. For my dime, I hope the BAM is quickly fortified to last and put into everyday use, and the Bering Strait bridge tunnel, too!


ggnutsc
Posted 07 September 2007 at 07:38 am

This was a fine article... Being somewhat of a railfan myself really enjoyed the reading. Maybe the best part is envisioning a bunch of hard headed communists all toughing it out and building tunnels needlessly because of their apparent drive to prove what they could do. It's just sad that there had to be so many lives lost in building it. Just the other evening there was a program oon about the Japanese building their wartime railroad and the bridge on the river Kwai. While the russians were busy using and abusing japanese POWs for buildig their railroad, the Japanese were busy using and abusing POWs for the building of their track.


Nicki the Heinous
Posted 07 September 2007 at 07:39 am

DI and life altering!

From now on, I will consider pointing a jet engine at life's obstacles as a viable option to overcome them.


iSoph
Posted 07 September 2007 at 07:40 am

As always, damn interesting!

I wonder what the effects of permafrost thawing will be for this line. Some villages and pipelines in Alaska seem to be affected by this already. I hope the BAM stays in place long enough for me to use it to travel to Japan, or else I'll have to use the southern route...


jennmv
Posted 07 September 2007 at 07:52 am

Point taken. I guess you can look at the project in terms of technical difficulty, engineering merit and the like, but also in terms of time and expense and sheer blood-and-guts human effort (mis-applied or otherwise). I doubt the BAM could be considered the 'greatest' in any single sense, civil engineering or otherwise, but perhaps –just perhaps!– in combination. Hey, I've got to grab your attention somehow…"

And it worked well...kept me reading to find out what this engineering feat was. Still a very good article.


natjbrown
Posted 07 September 2007 at 08:01 am

Matt Castle said: "Pass a large slice of humble pie, please. Don't know how that one got through: the tsar was overthrown in February 1917, and the subsequent Provisional Government was in turn kicked out by the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution of, er, October 1917. Apologies all round.

Sorry to nitpick, but the October Revolution actually took place in September. This confusing fact is a result of the conflict between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.


Kao_Valin
Posted 07 September 2007 at 09:53 am

natjbrown said: "Sorry to nitpick, but the October Revolution actually took place in September. This confusing fact is a result of the conflict between the Julian and Gregorian calendars."

So the Hunt for Red October was really the Hunt for Red September? Aha, perfect misdirection I'd say.


Timmmm
Posted 07 September 2007 at 09:55 am

CrowdKiller said: "I think i heard somewhere that there is also a plan to link South America to Africa. This would enable you to go by train (or car maybe?) all around the world. A nice idea would'nt you say?"

Riiight... have you heard of this thing called 'The Atlantic Ocean'?

jennmv said: "DI…I can not believe the near sightedness of the project planners to built it straight line rather than building a less expensive and easier course"

Near sighted? I would say it is far sighted given high-speed trains' requirements of straight track.


leob
Posted 07 September 2007 at 10:13 am

natjbrown said: "Sorry to nitpick, but the October Revolution actually took place in September. This confusing fact is a result of the conflict between the Julian and Gregorian calendars."

IN NOVEMBER!


supercalafragalistic
Posted 07 September 2007 at 06:56 pm

For a long time I have been intrigued by the stories of yellow fever and the ineffective methods of construction used by the French to build the Panama Canal. This particular civil engineering project however was unknown to me until reading this article. I wonder if the initial planners would have known that their project would be dropped and recontinued by so many groups if this would have changed their planning?

Many great feats of building and engineering took place in the last century. It is pretty amazing that people didn't give up and actually finished them. Hundreds of years prior people were building elaborate cathedrals in Europe that would take a century or more to complete, and before that there were pyramids in various places around the world. It's amazing what humans can do when they're not all at home watching television!!! My big question is what are we going to build in this century? As of right now here in Chicago Donald Trump is building a big skyscraper, but that idea is soooo last century, don't you think?

I want an ihouse to go with my new iphone (with an igarage where I can park my icar that I use to go to iHop), or how about a building with its own DNA sequence that is genetically engineered? How about a bridge less than an inch thick build by nanorobots that is twice as strong as concrete? My point is that based on past accomplishments we as humans have a lot of fantastic architectural and engineering feats to look forward to. My burning question is what are those things? It must have taken a lot of ambition and gumption to propose such a big project as BAM nearly a century ago. Who today has that kind of ambition and gumption? Can someone tell me please? I want to go work for them! :)


Josh Harding
Posted 07 September 2007 at 09:01 pm

natjbrown said: "Sorry to nitpick, but the October Revolution actually took place in September. This confusing fact is a result of the conflict between the Julian and Gregorian calendars."

Actually, it fell in November. The Julian calendar offsets it by two weeks. It makes December/January quite a drunk couple of months. Catholic Christmas, New Years, Orthodox Christmas, Old New Years, and then another holiday a couple weeks later.


Skpetic
Posted 07 September 2007 at 10:15 pm

DI Matt, I like your style of writing. Exciting and easy to read.


tarteauxpommes
Posted 08 September 2007 at 09:16 am

supercalafragalistic said: "I want an ihouse to go with my new iphone (with an igarage where I can park my icar that I use to go to iHop)"

Ha! That would be amazing.


EVERYTHINGZEN
Posted 08 September 2007 at 10:30 am

Supercalafragalistic, check out Build it Bigger on Discovery Channel. I can't remember what time its on, schedule is probably different from here anyway depending on where you live, but I believe Sept 19th they are airing the building of the Chicago Trump Tower. You can go to Discovery.com and watch the "webisodes" for free, look at times for the up and coming episodes.

Great article Matt, gotta love those crazy Ruskies! I can't believe someone didn't stop the BAM from progressing some years ago, you would think they had a pretty good idea earlier on that a single, nonelectrified railway wasn't gonna cut it for future needs. Very surprised they didn;t abandon that idea sooner.

It has been surmised that Alaska used to be connected to Siberia when Native Americans first showed up in the U.S, long before Columbus "discovered" America. But that ocean levels had raised enough to cover the connecting strip of land by the time civilization had been re-introduced to the area. I must say I am very intrigued with these underground lakes I keep hearing about too, I would like to continue to learn more about them. Wonder if Discovery has anything on that...


Tink
Posted 08 September 2007 at 04:34 pm

supercalafragalistic said: "I want an ihouse to go with my new iphone (with an igarage where I can park my icar that I use to go to iHop), or how about a building with its own DNA sequence that is genetically engineered? How about a bridge less than an inch thick build by nanorobots that is twice as strong as concrete? . My burning question is what are those things? Who today has that kind of ambition and gumption? Can someone tell me please? I want to go work for them! :)"

This is a great post; You have a beautiful mind! DI! :-D


supercalafragalistic
Posted 08 September 2007 at 06:30 pm

EVERYTHINGZEN,

Thanks for the tip, I'll check that out. I really like reading or watching anything on architecture or engineering because it is both creative and scientific at the same time.


SoxSweepAgain
Posted 09 September 2007 at 07:39 am

Ah, great article. I'm fascinated with anything connected to the old Communist era of Russia.


supercalafragalistic
Posted 09 September 2007 at 12:48 pm

Tink said: "This is a great post; You have a beautiful mind! DI! :-D"

Thank you! I surround myself with the color green which it's been said makes a person more receptive to new ideas. Seriously though we need to get with it and start shaking things up this century with more cool new engineering projects.


Falco Peregrinus
Posted 10 September 2007 at 06:03 am

supercalafragalistic said: "It must have taken a lot of ambition and gumption to propose such a big project as BAM nearly a century ago. Who today has that kind of ambition and gumption? Can someone tell me please? I want to go work for them! :)"

The closest thing I can think of on a truly epic level of architecture and sheer scale like the BAM would be a space elevator. Now, to my understanding the biggest hurdle is as of yet, barring new materials, making the carbon nanotubes economically in bulk and pure enough to be strong enough for the task. Although all other things involved, like site placement, jet streams, aircraft collisions and wind resonance are probably just as problematic if not more so. Sad to say though that it will probably be 50+ years (total guess) before it would be feasible. So get to it people!


Radiatidon
Posted 10 September 2007 at 06:33 am

CrowdKiller said: "I think i heard somewhere that there is also a plan to link South America to Africa. This would enable you to go by train (or car maybe?) all around the world. A nice idea would'nt you say?"

Timmmm said: “Riiight… have you heard of this thing called 'The Atlantic Ocean'?”

Actually CrowdKiller is not that far off in their assumption. There are proposals to link Africa with Spain, Australia with Asia, Japan with China, to name but a few. Bridges and tunnels have been considered for years to connect isolated and/or hard to reach areas. Regardless of mountains, swamps, bodies of water, etc.

For more information, follow this link The Trans Global Highway.

The Don.


Ironclaw
Posted 10 September 2007 at 12:51 pm

Ok - question here from an Engineer.
Has anyone checked to see that the rail gauge used in North America is NOT the same as that over in Russia?

Wiki seems to indicate they are different.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_gauge

This means not only will there be the usual International custom's delay to inspect goods, but now there will be an additional offload / reload operation for the cargo during which breakage, spoilage and loss will occur. I am not sure how much of a cost impact those losses would represent versus shipping by boat. Also please consider that these additional loading and unloading operation would have to be commenced in a remote arctic environment.

Just another issue to ponder..


chemin-de-fer
Posted 10 September 2007 at 01:02 pm

From now on, I will consider pointing a jet engine at life's obstacles as a viable option to overcome them.

American railroads use jet engines to de-ice tracks, often used to clear a yard and switches quickly. See image here...http://www.morscher.com/rr/1999/19990711_12.jpg


chemin-de-fer
Posted 10 September 2007 at 01:09 pm

Ironclaw said: "Ok - question here from an Engineer.

Has anyone checked to see that the rail gauge used in North America is NOT the same as that over in Russia?

Wiki seems to indicate they are different.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_gauge

This means not only will there be the usual International custom's delay to inspect goods, but now there will be an additional offload / reload operation for the cargo during which breakage, spoilage and loss will occur. I am not sure how much of a cost impact those losses would represent versus shipping by boat. Also please consider that these additional loading and unloading operation would have to be commenced in a remote arctic environment.

Just another issue to ponder.."

If you get off the ferry at Port au Basque in Newfoundland, you can still see two sets of rails in the concrete. The standard-gauge cars were unloaded and run through a shed, where the wheels were exchanged for ones with The Rock's narrower gauge, and changed back to ride the ferry when they were outbound. Worked there for many years.


Radiatidon
Posted 10 September 2007 at 03:54 pm

Ironclaw said “Ok - question here from an Engineer.
Has anyone checked to see that the rail gauge used in North America is NOT the same as that over in Russia?”

You are correct in that there is an increased difference of 20cm (8”) between the Russian gauges compared to the global standard. The larger footprint is supposed to help with the softer tundra conditions of the summer Siberia soil. Otherwise to minimize the rails sinking into the ground when the ground softens during the warmer summer months.

Ironclaw said “This means not only will there be the usual International custom's delay to inspect goods, but now there will be an additional offload / reload operation for the cargo during which breakage, spoilage and loss will occur. I am not sure how much of a cost impact those losses would represent versus shipping by boat. Also please consider that these additional loading and unloading operation would have to be commenced in a remote arctic environment.”

There is a variety of ways that railroads overcome the gauge difference. One is to use a modified “truck” (the wheels and assembly that the train cars ride on) that attaches to the existing rail car’s truck allowing it to ride on the different gauge.

Another is to use flat cars designed to use the global standard 12 meters (40-foot) and 6 meter(20 foot) shipping containers. These portable containers can be moved from Semi-flatbed, to railway flatcar, to cargo ship. So it would be extremely easy to move from the smaller global gauge track flatcar to a Russian larger gauge flatcar.

As much as I have moved from location to location, most of my personal stuff has been moved via this method. I have never suffered any damaged belongings as such and I have lived in the Pacific by the equator, the desert, the mountains, the jungle, and in the artic.

The Don.


CaptainBagz
Posted 11 September 2007 at 02:08 am

DI Matt, I've read through most of the archive articles and decided I just had to sign up. I may be getting smarter on account of this site. Thanks!


Kao_Valin
Posted 11 September 2007 at 06:42 am

Radiatidon said: "I have lived in the Pacific by the equator, the desert, the mountains, the jungle, and in the artic.

The Don."

I just realised the Don is really Indiana Jones.


Kao_Valin
Posted 11 September 2007 at 06:54 am

Oh, and about that transglobal highway thing... would continental drift mess with that a whole lot? I would imagine crossing fault lines would cause it to be an annoyingly challenging problem in a long term sense. How is it more cost/time effective to have something burn holes thru glaciers in the north rather than simply ship it over the ocean? I am reminded of instant transportation across megacontinents using railroads in Civ IV, et tu?


another viewpoint
Posted 11 September 2007 at 08:07 pm

...just remember, before Washington DC decided on using the acronym of WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), they wanted something similar to the BART system in San Francisco. However, someone realized that Federal Area Rapid Transit, would probably not go over too well.

BAM...now that's another matter.


prototypepariah
Posted 12 September 2007 at 06:23 am

is it time for a new article yet? I think DI needs to cracking here....once a week is not enough to subdue the lust for knowledge!


robo
Posted 12 September 2007 at 08:11 am

Have you all looked at the map? It's a very long way from BAM to Alaska. It seems like a rail line to join the two would take 50 years to build judging by the rates presented in this article especially considering that conditions are going to get much worse as they move further North.


Rockadilly
Posted 14 September 2007 at 06:39 am

Inti said: "Think about how many positive things could have been done with such vast amount of resources, especially in the progress of science. Now, am I right if I describe the most powerful and resourceful military in the world as "dumb"? I bet I am."

Yeah Mate, that’s great. I read your post bragging how smarter than anyone else you are, when they showed a little boy from Iraq on the telly. You know, that innocent country that the American’s are raping for her oil and national treasures.

This child was so horribly scarred that even a Dingo wouldn’t lick his face. You could say that he is a victim of war. In your eyes his disfigurement is all because of Hitler’s brother Bush’s greed for Iraq’s oil. Yep, if that poor little child had not accepted candy from the deplorable Yank soldier, then those innocent Muslims would not have been forced to pour acid on his face. To then use boiling hot water to scald this blameless child who had innocently accepted sweets from the world’s worst enemy, a United States Soldier.

I guess your right mate, to hell with the rest of the world. Let them eat the babies. Lets take that $451,233,600,999 U. S. dollars (www.costofwar.com) and plant more of those Cherry Trees along the Mall pond there in World’s worst country’s capital, King Bush’s Washington DC. There is not one child, let alone another person worth a penny of that money mate, as long as you get your wish.

While your at it, how about releasing that bloke that the Yanks have in custody. You know, the one that admits blowing up the towers, bombing the nightclub with Brits and Aussie Tourists. Did you listen to how proud he was when describing the act of cutting off that New York Jew reporter’s head? He said that it was god’s will and that it was a joy to use his blessed right hand to perform the deed, to cleanse the world of another foul Jew. You are so right that the Yanks should not be capturing or killing god’s chosen now. They have a mission to wipe out the infidels. Are you Muslim? If not then you too could be an infidel! Think about it.

Ay Mate, guess you are right. Let the radicals destroy their own countries. We can eat jaffles with the jillaroos under the stars. What a load of dag.

The Yanks may not always do what is best for the world, but I think they do their best. I really hate how the American’s hold Australia under thumb with embargos and trade agreements, but I still think they attempt to help the needy. When my mates and me are out and about, if we see a Yank Soldier, we all shake his or her hand and thank them for doing their best.

Tonight when I go to bed with my misses, as my head hits my pillow, images of that poor Iraq child will follow me into sleep. Scarring my slumbers with thoughts of the people that did that to him, would do to people I know, including me.

God Bless the Yanks!

G-nite


orc_jr
Posted 17 September 2007 at 06:52 pm

Rockadilly, not only did your post not make any sense, it was completely inappropriate to the subject at hand and quoted another comment which was also not posted regarding this article. I can only assume that you meant to post this in a different location, so in the future please check before you submit, hmm?


Rockadilly
Posted 18 September 2007 at 06:11 am

orc_jr said: "Rockadilly, not only did your post not make any sense, it was completely inappropriate to the subject at hand and quoted another comment which was also not posted regarding this article. I can only assume that you meant to post this in a different location, so in the future please check before you submit, hmm?"

Sorry Mate. My computer had a virus that slowed my firefox down. Took me three tries to send it what with the thing locking up my computer. I usually write my responses in a word processor so I don’t bloody hack the language. I didn’t realize that I had reposted it on the wrong area, plus it was after 11:00 Pm my time. The post was meant for the “Spies on the Roof of the World”.

As far as making sense, Inti stated that anyone in or involved with the military is anti-patriotic and a moneygrubber. I tend to disagree.

As far as a bloke posting a comment to the wrong area, I’m not the first, nor will I be the last. Off subject, really now, how many times is the comments section off subject, on almost every bloody subject. ;)

G-nite mate.


orc_jr
Posted 18 September 2007 at 11:54 am

My apologies if I sounded argumentative or accusatory. It was an easy mistake to make. Incidentally, I would have to agree with your stance that military servicemen are anything but anti-patriotic or fortune-seeking. I can't speak for Australia but I know that the American military does not pay the average soldier well enough to justify service for that reason alone. As for anti-patriotism, I don't see anybody who felt that way voluntarily taking an oath to fight for that to which they object.


Rockadilly
Posted 18 September 2007 at 04:16 pm

orc_jr said: "My apologies if I sounded argumentative or accusatory."

No need to apologize there mate. You were quite right about what I said making no sense in the BAM article, I didn’t take it as an argy bargy. Thanks for pointing it out. It at least helped to take my mind off the dingos. Well, have to go before my ute runs dry. Have to check the fence out back of Bourke before I lose another Boer to the bloody scavengers, and the misses gives me a whack.

Speaking of “off subject”, Radiation Donnie, how about another dazzler there mate. Help make me, and others as happy as a pig in mud. No new articles and slow comments are almost as bad as a case of empties.

G-day


Hoekstes
Posted 02 October 2007 at 05:38 am

CrowdKiller said: "I think i heard somewhere that there is also a plan to link South America to Africa. This would enable you to go by train (or car maybe?) all around the world. A nice idea would'nt you say?"

When was the last time you played with a globe or read a map? Unless you're talking about optic cables, but I haven't seen a train riding on one of those and don't think I'm going to real soon either.


Hoekstes
Posted 02 October 2007 at 06:20 am

Rockadilly said: "that $451,233,600,999 U. S. dollars (www.costofwar.com)
G-nite"

And this is supposed to substantiate your point? Which is what again?
I'd rather build that space elevator or that tunnel under the Atlantic. Hell you could build them both twice.
And I know I'm posting two weeks behind schedule - I was on holiday.


Anonymousx2
Posted 18 October 2007 at 04:04 am

Last.


BrianTung
Posted 24 October 2007 at 04:46 pm

This is obviously way late, but in the last paragraph, do you mean trans-continental or inter-continental?


SunnieDelite
Posted 15 March 2008 at 11:52 pm

Wow. Great comments and insightful, intelligent discourse (for the most part)... am I still in America? Great place and wonderful articles! I went and checked out the official BAM site and I ended up sending them some edits (just because I could and I had the time and they invited assistance on the site). I learned a lot about the BAM. I think I'd really like to ride it one day. It definately sounds like a unique experience! Thanks for opening my eyes to it!


HawkeyeXX
Posted 24 August 2008 at 02:54 am

I've only got one remark for this article. They didn't use the jet engine pictured to thaw the ice. It's rather doubtful that the soviets had a J58 laying around. (See SR-71/A-12)


Mirage_GSM
Posted 05 March 2009 at 10:19 am

another viewpoint said: "…just remember, before Washington DC decided on using the acronym of WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), they wanted something similar to the BART system in San Francisco. However, someone realized that Federal Area Rapid Transit, would probably not go over too well."

And "Washington Area Rapid Transit" would be only incrementally better...


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