Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 11:50:56 AM EST
How are railways kept in shape? Today, you'll see those yellow or red/white work cars going up & down the lines – first the track inspector cars find out what should be repaired, then come the track repair cars.
Earlier, the inspection part was done by men – men on foot. A tough job: whether in snowstorm or heatwave, rain or wind, you had to walk down your daily 10 km; while you had to constantly watch out for loose nails on both rails and trains from both directions at the same time; and you had to make way for coming trains wherever you were – be it into the deep snow on the steep side of an embankment, or off to a small balcony upon windy heights in the middle of a bridge, or off to a small shelter on the side of a noisy and smoke-filled tunnel.
But, that's not yet the hardest job.
That you find on branch lines in Siberia: where there is the job of track worker and inspector in one.
Cold means -55°C. Summer means armies of mosquitoes. The mud you jump into when a train passes means swamps to the horizon. Your daily 10 km walk means carrying the fifty-kilogram replacement rail all the way on your back if necessary. Track repair means two of you do what machines or a track gang of six do elsewhere.
I have nothing but respect for these men.
The Russian (or Soviet) work ethic you see at work here is something totally alien to Westerners. ("Insane", "inhumane", "self-destructive", it would be called.) To get a little closer to understanding it, I recommend a movie, if you can get a hand on it: the heroes of Children of Iron Gods (made by a Hungarian director and an almost entirely Russian cast & crew in 1993) live and work in a giant and decrepit iron smelter. Through accidents and accidental heroism, social realism and a surreal train robbery, we get to the climax, in the form of a crazy bet.
Previous Monday Train Bloggings:
- (Premiere/ modern Austrian trains & locos)
- Fast Steam
- Heavy Haul
- Forgotten Colorado