The uncompleted railway across Northern Siberia was one of the most shameful projects of the post-war era, involving many deaths and huge discomforts. Hailed by Stalin himself as a major part of his 'Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature', the scheme was dropped at his death in 1953. By that time, less than 600 kilometres were in working operation, even though up to 300,000 persons had been involved and about a third of them had perished, while more than 40 billion rubles of capital investment had been wasted. Ghostly labour camps, rusting rolling stock and rails, hundreds of bridges remain in what has been called 'an open air museum of human technology', preserved by nature's refrigerator - the tundra. The article describes the reasons for the railway project and the 'Great Plan', the organization involved, and the conditions in which the enslaved workforce struggled for survival and died.
'The Dead Road' (1947-1953)
Victor L. Mote
Cosmopolitan Learning through Hospitality in Siberia
This article focuses on the process of cosmopolitan learning among hosts in a hospitality couchsurfing network in Siberia. The data making up the empirical basis for the study were collected during fieldwork in Siberia: between 2007 and 2011 in Krasnoiarsk and Novosibirsk and from 2010 to 2012 in Irkutsk and Vladivostok. The article argues that the interactional dynamics between hosts and guests in cosmopolitan learning are determined by the combination of emotive and cognitive rewards. The primary emotional charge occurs as a result of the first interaction with the visitor, while a cognitive “bonus“ is represented by the opportunity to practice a foreign language in the home environment. In addition, hosts reflect on such aspects as the exchange of lifestyle ideas, the exposure to everyday habitual practices, and the realization of commonality and difference. These reflections leading to self-discovery in the comfort of one's own home constitute an important element in the process of cosmopolitan learning.
Topology and Infrastructural Politics in Alpine Italy
This article examines transportation infrastructures’ capacity to produce and transform social space through a focus on the contested history of railway development in Valsusa, Italy. I draw on participant observation and interviews with local residents and activists during ethnographic fieldwork in 2014–2015. I first describe how railways helped form modern sociality in Valsusa in the twentieth century. Subsequently, I explore contrasting topological effects of a projected high-speed rail through the valley. For planners envisioning a trans-European space of exchange, the railway is a powerful way to “shrink” space; for local residents, this implies reducing Valsusa to a traffic “corridor.” Yet their protest generates new social relations and knowledges, giving rise to a notion of “territory” as unbound and connected to a transnational space of resistance to capitalist expansion.
Focusing on the wide-ranging scholarship on how railway technology, travel, and infrastructure has affected South Asia‚ this article highlights recent interventions and shifts. It discusses how questions about land‚ labor‚ capital‚ and markets are being increasingly integrated with questions about how railways affected society‚ culture‚ and politics. It also stresses the increasing interest in comparative work‚ both in terms of locating railways within wider structures of transport and mobility as well as analyzing how South Asia’s engagement relates to the global impact of this technology.
In the debates surrounding the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway was used as a model. This article traces how eyewitness accounts of Canadian settlement patterns were used by Russian entrepreneurs to argue the case for the financing and organisation of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Given the tense international political climate at the end of the 19th century, the Trans-Siberian also became a focus for imperial rivalry. This article gives a good overview of comparative colonial enterprise in two great continental colonies.
Dhan Zunino Singh
Considering ‘urban mobility as an important everyday life practice that produces meaning and culture,’ the present review discusses underground railway history in cultural terms. Following Colin Divall and George Revill, culture is understood here as representations and practices, and the underground railway ‘as mediation between the imaginable and the material.’ This review does not cover the prolific literature about this topic, but gathers perspectives from within and beyond transport or mobility history to contribute to a historical and comparative assessment of spatial representations and practices related to the production and uses of this subterranean mode of transport. The sources of these perspectives are Benson Bobrick’s Labyrinths of Iron, Rosalind Williams’s Notes on the Underground, Michael Brooks’s Subway City, David Pike’s Subterranean Cities, and Andrew Jenks’s A Metro of the Mount.
Australian railway historiography, like its railway history and indeed like Australia itself, poses a curious paradox. Why is such a fortunate and civil polity so parochial and so divided geographically? It is now more than 230 years since British colonisation began. Ever since, Australia has been prosperous; relatively egalitarian, at least for its white population; generally free from civil strife; and efficiently and effectively governed. The temperature of its debates and conflicts rarely has risen above levels characterised by civil disobedience and strikes, which have been controlled by police and courts within usual legal frameworks.
Though railway stations originated in nineteenth-century Europe, they have inspired renewed interest worldwide since the 1980s. To be convinced of that suggestion, one need only consider major projects such as Washington DC’s Union Station (1988), Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (2006), St Pancras International (2007), or the complete renovation of Gare du Nord in Paris since 1998.
To introduce recent historical research on railways in Brazil, the case of one of its states makes a useful example. Concentrating on railway history in São Paulo will permit a more historiographical and thematic point of view. The São Paulo state railway is of particular significance in Brazil. At 4,041 km in 1907, it accounted for more than one-fifth of the total extent of all Brazilian railways (17,605 km), well ahead of runners up in the states of Minas Gerais (3,932 km) and Rio de Janeiro (2,422 km).2 The state of São Paulo also led in cargo transportation. The São Paulo Railway Company alone transported 1.9 million tons of cargo. Among the six most profitable transportation companies in Brazil, four were in São Paulo: São Paulo Railway Company, Sorocabana Railway Company, Paulista Railway Company (Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro) and Mogiana Railway Company (Companhia Mogiana de Estradas de Ferro). Doctoral theses and academic papers on the history of Brazilian railways have grown in the last ten years, and studies of São Paulo predominate.
Hugo Silveira Pereira
This article aims to describe the evolution of Portuguese railway historiography and to speculate on which research trends could be further developed in the future. The author lists and performs a short critical appraisal of some works that illustrate the major lines of research thus far. He then pinpoints areas that could benefit from further research and that could become investigation trends in a near future, despite the budget cuts that universities and research as a whole are currently undergoing.