On August 6, the Russian Federation celebrates the Day of Railway Troops. This holiday was first established by the corresponding Decree of the President of the Russian Federation in 1996, and in 2006 a new Decree of the President of the Russian Federation "On the establishment of professional holidays and memorable days in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation" was adopted. The railway troops have played a very important role in ensuring the defense and security of the Russian state for more than 160 years. After all, the Day of Railway Troops was established in memory of the creation of the first units for the protection and operation of the St. Petersburg - Moscow railway, which, exactly, followed on August 6, 1851.
The beginning of a glorious journey. Military workers and conductor companies
The history of the railway troops of Russia is directly related to the development of railways in the country. In 1837, the first in Russia Tsarskoye Selo railway line was opened, although developments in the field of railway construction were undertaken before it. So, in 1833-1834. father and son E. A. and M. E. The Cherepanovs designed the first Russian steam locomotive. When the construction of the railway from St. Petersburg to Moscow was completed in 1851, it became necessary to create armed units designed to guard and ensure the uninterrupted operation of the railway line. At the same time, the best representatives of Russian military thought began to think about using railway communication for the transportation of military units much earlier. So, back in 1841 N. S. Mordvinov predicted a great future for railways in terms of moving military units across the vast territory of the Russian Empire. During the period under review, the Main Directorate of Railways and Public Buildings was responsible for transport links in the Russian Empire. In addition to civilian institutions, military engineering units were subordinate to him, consolidated into the Corps of Railway Engineers and the Construction Detachment. Directly subordinate to the Main Directorate were 52 separate military-workers companies, which were engaged in ensuring the protection of land and water routes, but also were responsible for the repair of roads. In addition, there was a guard-board crew, which was on duty to protect the river routes - the Volga, Oka, Kama, Vyatka and Sura. Naturally, the appearance of the railway also required the creation of specialized military units for its maintenance. Initially, for the service of guarding the construction of the St. Petersburg-Moscow railway, military-workers companies were involved, guarding a land road of a similar direction.
After the construction of the St. Petersburg - Moscow railway line was completed in 1851, 14 separate military workers' companies, 2 conductor companies and 1 telegraph company were formed by a special order from the Main Directorate of Railways and Public Buildings. In the first conductor company, machinists, assistant machinists and stokers served, in the second company - the chief conductor and conductor. The total number of the personnel of the conductor companies was 550 people. The telegraph company was responsible for maintaining the telegraph all along the railway line. The number of the telegraph company was 290 people. The military workers' companies consisted of 3,500 servicemen who were responsible for ensuring the protection of bridges, crossings and the operation of railway stations. The emblem of the units was the symbolism of the department of communications - a crossed ax and an anchor. Thus, in 1851, the first and very numerous units were formed, which were the prototype of the future railway troops of Russia. However, railway construction in the Russian Empire faced numerous obstacles, primarily related to insufficient funding for the industry. Since the construction work was carried out by representatives of foreign companies, they cared less about the needs of Russia and, much more, were concerned about their own enrichment. Therefore, the country's leadership was forced to switch to a strategy to meet the needs of the construction of railways by the forces of military units.
Further development. Military road teams
In 1858, the first military-working brigade was formed with a total strength of 3,500 servicemen. She was immediately involved in the construction of the St. Petersburg - Warsaw railway. In addition to the brigade, temporary military workers brigades were formed from among the non-commissioned officers and privates of active service to solve the problems of the construction of specific railway facilities, which were disbanded after the completion of construction. In particular, in 1863, four military-working companies were formed for the construction of the Odessa-Parkan railway. All the companies were subordinate to the headquarters officer, who enjoyed the rights of the commander of a separate battalion. The detachment commander had two officers, a treasurer, an auditor and an official of the office. In addition, each company included 550 privates, 12 non-commissioned officers, a captenarmus, a paramedic, a company sergeant major and a company commander - an officer. As the systematic railway construction was deployed, it became obvious that it made no sense to form temporary companies and brigades - after all, the privates and non-commissioned officers of these units only had time to grasp the essence of their service, as the units were disbanded. Therefore, it was decided to switch to the practice of creating permanent railway military units. In 1864, the formation of military workers' brigades began. Unlike their predecessors, they were permanent and moved from one place to another as new railway lines were built. The size of the military working brigade was determined in seven companies, 650 privates in each company. Sometimes units of the ground forces, primarily the infantry, were also involved in work on railway construction, however, the military department gradually abandoned this practice, since participation in the construction of railways did not allow the infantry units to fully conduct combat training, that is, to engage its main service. The most demanded was the work of railway military workers' brigades during the construction of railways in remote regions of the Russian Empire - in the Far East, in Central Asia.
As the length of the railway line grew, the military leadership seriously thought about organizing and streamlining the transportation of large military contingents by rail. In 1862, a corresponding provision was adopted, regulating the process of transporting troops and servicemen by rail. In 1866, the Regulation on military road teams was adopted, which were to be created in case of war with the army in the field. The military road teams were subordinate to the inspector of military communications, and he, in turn, to the chief of staff of the army. The military road team consisted of two departments - a technical one and a worker. The technical department consisted of competent engineers and technicians, road foremen and workers of various specialties. The personnel of the department was recruited according to the order of the Ministry of Railways and was approved by the Ministry of War. The working department was staffed with servicemen of the engineering troops and infantry who did not have special training and were capable of performing work that did not require high qualifications. The leadership of the department was appointed by the Ministry of War from among the officers of the military engineering service. Around the same time, when the regulations on military road teams and on the transport of troops were being developed, the military workers, conductor and telegraph companies that had existed for a decade were disbanded. The Ministry of War was faced with the urgency of the need to create an effective system for training railway specialists capable of serving in military road teams in the event of mobilization and the outbreak of hostilities. Indeed, by the time being considered, the Russian army did not have such a reserve due to the lack of an organized system of personnel training.
In 1869, the Regulation was developed on military railway teams formed on the railways in peacetime. It was assumed that military railroad teams in peacetime would be formed from among the capable lower ranks of infantry and engineering units. 75% of the personnel of the military railway teams were to be recruited from the number of infantrymen, 25% of the personnel from the number of sappers. The number of military railway teams on 23 railways of the country was determined at 800 people. In the process of service, soldiers and non-commissioned officers mastered railway specialties, and after demobilization they were taken on a special account and in case of war they had to be mobilized and sent to serve in military road teams. Along the way, military railway teams were also engaged in the construction of railway branches, repair and track works. Also, three Cossack military railway teams were formed, consisting of 100 Don Cossacks, who served on the Gryaz-Borisoglebskaya, Rostov-Hrushevskaya and Kursk-Kharkov-Azov railways. Cossack teams acted on a similar schedule with ordinary military railway teams and the Cossacks who served in them, in case of war, were also to be sent to military road teams. Horse Cossacks, in the event of the outbreak of hostilities, were supposed to guard the objects of the railway infrastructure, repair them, and, if necessary, on the contrary, blow them up so that they would not get to the enemy. The creation of military railway teams had a positive impact on the mobilization readiness of the Russian army in the field of military communications. It was thanks to the activities of the military railway teams that, in a relatively short time, it was possible to prepare an impressive contingent of non-commissioned officers and privates with railway specialties. In 1876, the number of those was 2,200. Thus, a reliable and very numerous for that time reserve of military road teams was provided. At the same time, the military leadership decided to begin the formation of permanent railway military units that would be capable of performing large volumes of construction and repair of railway tracks during hostilities.
Railway battalions in the Russian-Turkish war
One of the main reasons for the transition to a new form of organization of the railway troops was the impending war of the Russian Empire with Turkey, in the near beginning of which no one from among the leaders of the military department had any doubts.
Therefore, the Ministry of War was tasked with creating effective units for the maintenance and construction of railways capable of operating on the Russian-Turkish front. The situation was aggravated by the underdevelopment of railways in the areas where it was assumed that Russian troops would operate. The underdevelopment of the railway infrastructure, in turn, significantly hampered the transport of troops and the organization of their supply. Solving the tasks of organizing the provision of railway communication in the potentially front-line territory required the military leadership to streamline the service of the military railway commands. The main drawback of the military railway teams was a personnel shortage: the teams experienced a colossal shortage of cadre officers, and the training of personnel, although it was carried out at an acceptable level, was still not distinguished by unity, since each chief of the military road command prepared subordinates in accordance with their own views on the specifics of the service. The need for universalization of training and provision of a cadre of officers trained by non-commissioned officers and soldiers led to the formation of permanent military units in the form of railway battalions. According to the heads of the military department, it was the battalion form of the organization that best met the practical needs of railway construction and the service for the protection and repair of railway infrastructure. In accordance with the order of the Minister of War of November 12, 1876, a military road battalion was formed, which soon received the name of the 3rd railway battalion and was included in the 3rd engineer brigade.
The 3rd railway battalion consisted of two construction and two operational companies. The first operational company was the company of the rolling stock and traction service, the second - the company of the traffic and telegraph service. The number of operational companies was determined at 337 non-commissioned officers and privates each, the number of construction companies at 196 non-commissioned officers and privates each. The personnel of the railway battalion were armed with Berdanks, and the machinists, assistants and stokers were armed with revolvers. The servicemen of the battalion wore sappers' uniforms, but with the letters "Ж" on their shoulder straps. The recruitment of the railway battalion was carried out through the selection of non-commissioned officers and privates trained in military railway teams and possessing the appropriate railway specialties. The officers also had special training. As for the construction companies, they included 5 railway engineers, 4 technicians, road foremen, foremen, road workers and other specialists needed to organize construction and repair work on railway lines. The construction companies had their own 4 steam locomotives, 34 wagons for personnel, 2 auxiliary wagons and 4 platforms, as well as a large number of tools needed to carry out repair and restoration, construction or liquidation works on sections of the railway track. As for the operational companies, they consisted of 9 railway engineers, telegraph officials, machinists and their assistants, stokers, train compilers, conductors, assistant station chiefs and other specialists. Thus, the battalion served 2 staff officers, 22 chief officers, 23 civilian officials, 1,066 non-commissioned officers and privates, and 31 civilian workers. Thus, the first full-fledged military unit of the railway troops was created in the Russian Empire, capable of performing various combat missions. In 1877, two more railway battalions were created.
Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878 became the first serious test for the Russian railway troops. The vanguard of the Russian army included 3 officers and 129 lower ranks from the 3rd railway battalion. It was assumed that Russian troops would be sent through the territory of Romania, but the railways of this country were in very poor condition, practically unsuitable for transporting large military contingents. Therefore, the 3rd railway battalion was thrown into the restoration of the railway line between Cucuteni and Iasi, which was washed out by overflowing lakes. Within two days, the railway service was restored, while the Romanian railway services asked for this volume of work to be completed for two weeks. Thus, the restoration of the Cucuteni-Iasi track became the first "battle" of the Russian railway troops, which they withstood with honor, including thanks to the titanic efforts of soldiers and non-commissioned officers who, in the flood conditions, were able to restore the railway track. Subsequently, during the war, the 3rd railway battalion was more than once involved in the restoration of railway lines and even for the construction of an additional track on the Ungheni - Iasi stretch. In addition, the railway battalion was repairing the rolling stock involved in the transportation of military units through Romania. Non-commissioned officers and privates of the railway battalion were assigned to the Romanian trains, covering the lack of qualified specialists in the Romanian Ministry of Railways. Until May 1878, Russian soldiers served on the territory of Romania, providing the railway communication of this country.
During the war, the 2nd and 4th railway battalions were formed in Moscow. The 2nd battalion was formed on June 30, 1877 and immediately sent to the front - in Romania. The battalion's companies were used to guard trains with cargoes en route to Bucharest, Brailov and other cities of the country. Construction companies took part in the construction of the Yassy - Bucharest branch bypassing Pashkani. To increase the capacity of the Romanian railways, it was decided to build a branch from Bendery to Galati, which the battalion was able to carry out in just 100 days. Thanks to the constructed railway line, the task of transporting the Russian army and its equipment was greatly facilitated. During the construction of the branch, 15 stations, 300 bridges and pipes were built. In the period from December 1877 to November 1878, more than 130 thousand servicemen of the Russian army were transported along the road. In January 1878, a consolidated company was formed from among the soldiers and non-commissioned officers of the railway battalions, directed to the southern direction of the railways, and at the end of April 1878 the 3rd battalion in full strength was sent to the southern Turkish railways. At the end of 1878, the 2nd and 3rd battalions were withdrawn to the territory of Russia. Until February 1879, the operation of the South Turkish railways was in the hands of the 4th railway battalion, after which it was transferred to the responsible Turkish departments. In June 1879, the 4th railway battalion was withdrawn to the territory of the Russian Empire. The Russian-Turkish war became the baptism of fire of the railway military units of the Russian army and showed the prospects of their use in the conditions of modern war, convincing the military leadership of the importance of the railway troops for the Russian army. The railway infrastructure facilities built by Russian soldiers were subsequently operated by the Romanian railway department.
Own EIV railway regiment
In 1878, the 1st railway battalion was formed, the tasks of which were to carry out the service to ensure the functioning and protection of the St. Petersburg - Tsarskoe Selo railway, as well as the mobile service to protect the railways during the passage of the tsar and members the royal family. Due to the tasks performed, the 1st railway battalion had the rights of guards military units and was distinguished by a special routine of service, the best supplies. At the same time, soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers of the battalion were practically not involved in the implementation of tasks for railway construction and protection of tracks in other regions of Russia and during military campaigns. After the end of the Russian-Turkish war, the number of railway battalions was significantly reduced. In fact, they turned into cadre units, each consisting of a battalion commander, 4 company commanders, a clerk, 6 non-commissioned officers, 2 company drummers and 83 soldiers. The headquarters officers and chief officers of the battalions were sent to continue serving in the field and reserve infantry units, and the lower ranks were sent to the railways as ordinary workers. Thus, despite the successes of the railway troops in the Russian-Turkish war, in the post-war period, the policy of framing units actually led to a significant weakening of the real combat potential of the troops and reduced them to the pre-war level of military railway commands - both in number, and in the quality of training, and in terms of the level of military discipline and cohesion of personnel. The Ministry of War actually shifted the task of training specialists of railway units to the department of communications, since the officials of the military department were convinced that the railway troops should only serve on the operation of railways in wartime, and in peacetime, the civilian department would perfectly cope with these tasks ways of communication. In this regard, there was a steady need for reorganization and modernization of the railway troops, including in the direction of improving the quality of training of personnel of subunits. Moreover, the subordination of Central Asia dictated the need for the development of railway communication in the region. It was not possible to build and maintain a railway in Central Asia without military units - it was almost impossible to take a large number of civilian specialists ready to work in the “wild region”.
From the Caspian to Samarkand
The need for the construction of a railway in Central Asia was dictated by economic and military-political considerations. First, the region was very weakly connected to Russia, which made economic exchange and governance difficult. Secondly, without a railway connection, the British, whose headquarters and military units were stationed in India, could gain advantages in the region. The construction of the Trans-Caspian railway was entrusted to the War Ministry, since the railway was to be built in the conditions of the war waged by the tsarist government against the Turkmen tribes inhabiting the Trans-Caspian region. For the construction of the railway in 1880, the 1st reserve railway battalion was formed, which consisted of 4 companies and 1,069 non-commissioned officers and soldiers. However, in the process of recruiting the battalion, the command faced a total shortage of qualified personnel. Even for the manning of one company of the battalion, there was not the proper number of non-commissioned officers and soldiers, which required the involvement of military personnel from the infantry and engineering troops. On May 14, 1880, the 1st company of the regiment was sent from Moscow, and the recruitment of the battalion was completed only by December 25, 1880, after which the battalion was also sent to Central Asia to begin work on the construction of the Trans-Caspian railway. Engineers of the Ministry of Railways were assigned to the battalion, who were hastily certified as military personnel and enrolled in the battalion. In addition, the battalion was accompanied by excavators - civilians employed in the Central Russian provinces from among the unemployed peasant population. The construction of the Trans-Caspian railway became the next, after the Russian-Turkish war, a page in the glorious military track of the railway troops of the Russian Empire.
Construction of the path. A military train of the Russian Imperial Army in Asia, illustration from The Patriot, March 6, 1904.
Within forty days of work, by October 5, 1880, 23 kilometers of broad gauge were built to Molla-Kara and 37 kilometers of narrow gauge to Kyzyl-Arvat. During the construction of the road, the railway workers faced numerous difficulties, first of all, with the lack of clean water sources and climatic changes. By the method of "trial and error" the railway battalion mastered the specifics of the operation of the track in the desert. Naturally, Russia's successes in railway construction in Central Asia led to a negative reaction from the British, who feared a further strengthening of the positions of the Russian Empire in the region. London, acting through its lobby in St. Petersburg - the Russian "fifth column" - was able to obtain from the tsarist government a decision to suspend further construction, after which the work was stopped, and the railway battalion focused on ensuring the functioning and protection of the constructed section of the road to Kyzyl-Arvat … However, when relations between Russia and Great Britain, due to the clash of interests in Central Asia and Afghanistan, escalated to the limit and the threat of a real war with England in Central Asia arose, the government of the Russian Empire decided to resume the interrupted construction of the railway. The tasks for the construction of the road were assigned to the 2nd Transcaspian railway battalion being formed. The functional of the battalions was divided - the 1st Transcaspian Railway Battalion was responsible for servicing the already constructed sections of the track and accepting new sections for operation, and the 2nd Transcaspian Railway Battalion took on the main tasks of building a railway track in the difficult conditions of the Central Asian region. In December 1886, the construction of the 806 km long railway to the Amu Darya. was completed, after which the railway battalion moved on to the construction of a bridge across the Amu Darya. The complex bridge works took four months. On May 15, 1888, the railway from the Caspian Sea to Samarkand was launched. The most important role in its construction and launch, and later in ensuring uninterrupted functioning, was played by the Trans-Caspian railway battalions.
Going to the railroad brigade
Meanwhile, in the European part of the Russian Empire in 1885, a separate railway brigade was created, which included all three railway battalions. At the same time, the military leadership was puzzled by the optimization of the structure of battalions in wartime and peacetime. According to wartime states, the railway battalion was supposed to include two construction and two operational companies, 25 officers, 5 officials and 1112 lower ranks. In peacetime, the structure of the railway battalion was determined in two construction, two operational and one personnel company (in wartime, the second battalion was deployed on its base), but the number of personnel was reduced to 652 soldiers and 3 officials with the same number of officers of 25 people. At the brigade and battalions, brigade and battalion schools were created, in which the training of specialists in various military railway specialties - construction, traction, movement, telegraph and subversive business - began. The officers were sometimes sent to the railways to improve their qualifications. The training of the battalion personnel was carried out at a special training ground in Baranovichi. Along the way, with the training of personnel, the battalions of the railway brigade took part in the construction of branches of the railways and ensuring the transportation of military contingents by rail during military exercises. At the same time, the government, interested in saving money, used the labor of the soldiers of the railway battalions to make a profit, which also explained the frequent participation of the battalions in the process of building new railway lines. In 1890A commission was created to study the situation in the railway troops, in the opinion of whose members the training of troops was carried out at an insufficient level and required the allocation of a separate railway for training of soldiers and non-commissioned officers. But the government was not able to provide funding for the construction of the training railway, so the idea of the commission was never implemented.
In the same 1890, new measures were taken to streamline the situation in the railway troops. In accordance with the Regulations on the field command of troops in wartime, in the event of war, the general leadership of the railway troops was to be carried out by the chief of military communications of the army, subordinate to the chief of staff of the army, and on special issues, subordinate to the head of the railway department of the headquarters of the commander-in-chief. Under the head of the military communications of the army, the Field Road Administration functioned, which was responsible for the construction and repair of roads. At the disposal of the head of the Field Road Administration were railway battalions, operational teams, and railroad protection units. At the same time, new military units of the railway troops were being formed. So, in 1895, the 1st Ussuriysk railway battalion was formed to carry out work on the construction of the South Ussuriysk railway, and in 1903 - the 2nd Ussuriysk battalion. On the basis of two battalions, the Ussuriysk railway brigade was created, which performed important functions in the construction of a railway from Vladivostok to the river. Amur. In 1903, 4 Zaamur battalions were formed, united into the Zaamur Railway Border Guard Brigade, whose duties included the protection and operation of the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER). In Central Asia, on the basis of the Trans-Caspian battalions, the Turkestan railway brigade was created. The last unit was distinguished by the fact that it included the Kushkin field railway company, which served the field portable railway - a unique means of communication. Subsequently, similar companies were formed in Eastern Siberia - the Amur and Irkutsk field railway companies. By the beginning of the twentieth century. the formation of a system of military education for officers of the railway troops also applies.
Prior to this, the manning of the officer corps was carried out through the transfer of officers from the engineering troops, but only 40% of the officers of the railway troops had a technical education. Therefore, in December 1903, at the Turkestan Railway Brigade, a special officers' school was founded, which officers who did not have a special railway education and who served in the ranks of the railway troops were obliged to graduate. Each year the school graduated 6 traffic officers, 5 repair officers and 4 traction officers. The school organized the study of six subjects - the rules of railway traffic, steam mechanics and rolling stock, the device of railways and artificial structures, construction art and architecture, mechanics and water supply, railway hygiene. The teaching staff of the school was recruited from among the officers of the Turkestan railway brigade with proper education and service experience, and from among the engineering personnel of the Transcaspian Railway Administration. Thus, the training system was significantly improved not only for soldiers and non-commissioned officers, but also for officers of the railway troops who do not have a specialized or technical education.
- Zaamur railway brigade
At the beginning of the twentieth century. The Russian Empire possessed a very large and one of the best railway troops in the world. As part of the Russian army, there were 12 railway battalions, combined into 4 railway brigades. The Baranovichi railway brigade was responsible for the European part of Russia and the combat training of personnel for all brigades. The Turkestan railway brigade provided the operation and protection of the Trans-Caspian railway, the Ussuri brigade - the Ussuri railway, and the Zaamur brigade - the Chinese-Eastern railway. One of the most efficient was the Zaamur Railway Border Guard Brigade, which, after the boxer uprising in China, was entrusted with the protection of the Chinese Eastern Railway. The brigade consisted of six companies of 325 soldiers and non-commissioned officers. For the manning of each company, 125 people were allocated from the railway and sapper units, and 200 people from the infantry units stationed in the territory of the Amur Military District. The brigade's units were stationed in Manchuria and played a key role in ensuring the functioning of the Chinese Eastern Railway during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. Considering the underdevelopment of the railway communication on the Russian-Chinese border, the railway troops played a crucial role in ensuring the transport of the Russian army and its supplies during the Russian-Japanese war. The hostilities forced the military leadership to think about further improving the management of railway troops.
In particular, in October 1904, the Military Council decided to form a special category of railway troops, which included all active railway battalions. Secondly, the staffing of the railway troops was to be carried out by graduates of an engineering school and officers from other branches of the military, provided they had a higher or secondary technical education. From the jurisdiction of the Main Engineering Directorate, the railway troops were reassigned to the General Staff of the Army. Also, a uniform staff of railway troops was established for peacetime and wartime, and the need to carry out training of personnel of the troops at a special training ground and a special military railway was emphasized. We can say that it was during the years of the Russian-Japanese war that ideas about the functionality of railway troops during military operations were formed. It included: reconnaissance of communication lines of enemy troops, restoration and operation of railways liberated from enemy troops, construction of railways from main railways to places of deployment of army units, organization of operation of railway lines in wartime, guarding railways and preparing for the defense of bridges and other infrastructure facilities, possible destruction of the railway in the event of a retreat. Despite the fact that for Russia as a whole, the Russian-Japanese war brought only disappointment, it helped the railway troops to realize their own shortcomings and advantages. It was during the Russo-Japanese War that the final design of the railway troops took place, which were to take part in the much more global First World War.