#APEYearofRail – celebrating rail travel in history

Inspired by the European Year of Rail campaign, Archives Portal Europe celebrates the history of rail transports across the European continent, showcasing gems from its network. 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

National Archives of Georgia

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.

Electric train “Strela” (arrow) at the Gori railway station, 1960. Preserved at the National Archives of Georgia

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

The Tbilisi Railway Depot Steamer, 1940. Preserved at the National Archives of Georgia

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!

Disinfection of passengers on the platform of the Mtskheta railway station implemented and controlled by officers of the gendarmerie division. 1880-1900. Preserved at the National Archives of Georgia

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 .

Train crash near Grakali station. October 13, 1900. Photo by Dimitri Ermakov
Preserved at the National Archives of Georgia
Cisterns falling off the railroad tracks near Belagor, March 11, 1890. Photo by Aleksander Engel
Preserved at the National Archives of Georgia

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