Our first travelling country is Georgia
Our second travelling country is the United Kingdom
We start with the National Archives of Georgia, which carried the first passenger from Poti to Tbilisi central station in 1872.
Due to the challenging mountainous geography of Georgia, railway engineers had to face many difficulties in building a railway system. Some of the earliest experiments with electric locomotives were conducted in the Georgian mountains; from 1956, due to increased demand on trunk electric locomotives, Tbilisi Locomotive Repair Plant started construction of electric locomotives.
This is the Tbilisi Electric Locomotive Factory “Elemavalmshenebeli” and its assembly manufactory, from 1958
and this is the finished & functioning electric train “Strela” arriving at the Gori station, in 1960. Gori is one of the turists’ landmarks of Georgia, mostly for its 13th century fortress, but also because it was the birthplace of Joseph Stalin: the city hosts the Joseph Stalin museum, and a very controversial statue of the Soviet leader is still in place in the City Hall square, surviving Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation programme, but also a government decision to remove in 2010, which was reverse two years later.
Before electricity, the epitome of the locomotive: the steamer! This is the previous instance of the Strela electric train at the Tbilisi Railway Depot Steamer, in 1940
This is a photograph we can all strongly relate to: during cholera epidemics, disinfection of passengers getting off trains at stations was common throughout Europe. This is the disinfection of passengers on the platform of the Mtskheta railway station, implemented by officers of the gendarmerie division, some times between 1880 and 1900. Luckily less invasive methods were developed over the years!
Railways are the perhaps best, and surely more romantic, means of transportation to connect long distances. In the late 19th century, Russian Empire photographer Dmitri Yermakov captured the Transcaucasus Railway – here the Royal wagons at Tbilisi railway station (1880-1890)
Dmitri Yermakov, Royal wagons of the Transcaucasus train line, 1880-1890). Preserved at the National Archives of Georgia
Trains are also one of the safest ways to travel – though crashes occur from time to time! Here are our Georgian pics of two accidents: a Train crash near Grakali station, on the Transcaucasus Railway, occurred on the 13 October 1900; and cisterns falling off the railroad tracks near Belagor (today’s Kharagauli), on the 11th of March, 1890. Belagor was founded as a railway station in the 1870s, as part of the construction of the Poti-Tbilisi railway .
The construction of the Jajuri (first pic) and Surami tunnels (pic 2 and 3), dated respectively 1870 and 1880. For the Surami tunnel, an international team of Italian miners worked to the construction. Surami is a small town near Belagor (today’s Kharagauli, in an area that developed around the construction of the railway.
After tunnels, bridges: the testing of a new bridge with three steamers on the river Terelostskali, and the Iron Bridge; both on the Transcaucasus railway (pics from 1870-80)
Georgia was one of the countries that declared independence in the wake of the events of World War I and the Russian Revolution; on the 26th May 1918, the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia was established. In the 1918-1920 period, the newsly established country was occupied in military fronts against an Ottoman occupation (part of its territories were formally returned to the Ottoman empire from Russia through the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which ended Russian involvement in World War I); Russia; and against Armenia, which had also declared independence from Russia only two days after Georgia. During these convulsive times, it was the People’s Guard of Georgia (საქართველოს სახალხო გვარდია), a volunteer military force of former soldiers and civilians, to be the protagonist of war actions.
Here there is a sanitary train (the convoys that provided medical care to the armies, with doctors on board and transport services between hospitals and camp infirmaries) of the People’s Guard
Building the Tbilisi railways environment of the 1960s: the assembling line of the locomotive factory and the construction of the train station
It is not all about the physical infrastructures, the machineries, and the building sites: here are the plan for the Batumi Railway Station by Panov (1889-1909), and the technical drawing for a wagon for horse-drawn railways in Tbilisi (1898). All preserved at the National Archives of Georgia
And the last stop of our Georgian trip: the General plan on of the section of Poti-Tbilisi Railway, 1864-1870 – Preserved at the National Archives of Georgia
After Georgia, we travel to the United Kingdom, the oldest railway system in the world !
Our first stop is Portsmouth, the birthplace of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), one of the most important engineers in UK history. Brunel was educated at the College de Henri Quatre in Paris, and he is famous for designing the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol and the Great Western steamship, among many other achievements. In 1833, Brunel was appointed Engineer for the Great Western Railway Company, where he carried into effect his plans for a broad gauge railway system. This caused a ‘gauge war’ between broad and narrow gauges; the UK Parliament eventually ruled in favour of the narrow gauges, but in spite of this, Brunel’s work brought him great renown, and he was asked to design railways in Italy as well as Australia and India. He was also a pioneer of atmospheric propulsion; and Brunel University London is named after him.