Siberia attracted and made think many people for centuries. The idea of BAM construction appeared in the 80s of the 19th century, but only in the 70s of the 20th century it found its realization. The construction of BAM was definitely a new stage in Siberia's development.
On December 22, 1973 the first group of builders arrived to UST-Kut from the newly built railroad Khrebtovaya - Ust-Ilimsk. They settled down in a thinly populated village Polovinka on the bank of the Lena River. They got accommodated in a deserted izba (wooden Siberian dwelling), where there used to be a local school. They had a task to build a temporary winter road to the Tayura River, and then to found a settling for the builders to come there. There were eighteen of them!
In other words, the construction of the century started neither under the light of floodlights nor with the noise of cine-cameras. The world fame would come later, in several months. It started in the silence of the frosty morning of January 9, 1974, when at about 4:00 p.m., Alexey Pocherezhtsev stood up from his stool, threw the cigarette bit into the slightly opened door of the turning hot stove, and took his mittens:
- Well, shall we start guys?
Only some three months passed after this, and all the country started to talk about the BAM. In April 1974 the 17th Congress of the All-Union Lenin Young Communist League declared the Baikal-Amur Mainline the All-Union urgent construction site. On the 27th of April, straightly from the Palace of Congresses in Kremlin the 600 members of All-Union advanced Komsomol team went ahead to the BAM construction. When they arrived at Taishet station, the team was split into 2 parts. One part went to the North, to build the first kilometers of the line to the east from Ust-Kut to Tayura. The second half headed to the North of Amur region, the settling of Tyndinsky, to start the construction in the western direction. Each part of the team received halves of the silver symbolic key of BAM. 10 years passed. On October 1, 1984 the two tracklayers met. It happened close to Kuanda train station, 900 km to the east of Ust-Kut, and 800 km to the west of Tynda. The halves of the silver key became one again!
Recalling the most exciting moments of the construction, no BAM-builder would likely forget to tell about the first arrival of the train to his/her settlement. This event was so anticipated and thoroughly prepared that it would get stamped in the memory as one of the brightest and happiest moments of life in BAM area. Still, there were some sad moments as well. The arrival of the train was the last moment in the chain of events where everything was "the first": the first stake, the first cutting in the forest, the first tent, and the first rail link. Everything had become a history…
It's hard to find the words to describe the arrival of the first train. One needs to see that. It's a festivity, the price of which equals the years of hard labor of each of them under hard conditions. They meet the first train as if they meet their own dream. BAM-builders made a tradition to emulate for the honor to become a first passenger of the first train. The ritual of the first trip by the first train is so sensitive that even the most unperturbed ones feel excited. Music, multi-color nature of the festivity, and the honorable passengers of the first train create the ineffable atmosphere of the holiday for everybody.
Reading the BAM poetry one fact strikes the eyes, the most of the art works are dedicated to two events: the first cutting in the forest and the first train. It's unlikely an accidental fact. The initial and the final links in the process of the railroad construction are the most exciting. The poetess Nadezhda Puzyryovskaya wrote her poem "After the first train" with sad warmth and irrevocability of the days of the old:
The track laying is an effective show. The track laying crane takes the sections of the rail-sleeper grating one after another from its platform, puts them forward, pulls down on the sub grade, and pushes itself further on the newly put track. Thus, with little stops for the workers to bolt sections with each other, the crane moves on the self-made tracks. With every "step" of the crane it reduces the distance to the place to destination for exactly 25 meters.
More than 5 km of the railroad a day were the BAM records of track laying. The rates of the railroad construction of BAM determined the fantastic speed of track laying - 320 km annually on the main track of BAM. Taking into account the stations development, second track, and Smaller BAM tracks, this index neared to 500 km annually.
English version of BAM article. Translated by Andrew Bobylo, Foreign Relations Department Far Eastern Technical University