The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 8 (April 1, 1932.)
Russian and Chinese Railways
Mr. Tetsner, who was lately Head Manager of the Russian Transport and Insurance Co. (founded 1844), has had much experience in transport business, and the following article regarding the development of the railways coming under his personal observation should prove interesting to readers. Mr. Tetsner has a distinguished educational record. In 1902 he graduated from the University College of St. Petersburg, the Imperial Alexander Lyceum, with honours in Economics, Law and Commerce, and in 1905 he graduated from the Berne University, Switzerland, in Economics and Finance, holding corresponding Degrees.
Railways And Civilisation.
It is as true to-day as it always has been, that there is plenty of room at the top for development in any direction. The writer's own business, and the activities of all those with whom he is acquainted are capable of indefinite expansion, and every railway system in the world, strictly speaking, is far away from being fully developed.
Railways are only 100 years old. Yet from the moment the first train ran on the little Liverpool-Manchester line no other branch of human activities was more powerfully pushed forward and developed than the “iron tracks,” and it would be only right to say that this moment marked the start of real civilisation. Railways proved to be the dominant factors in industrial development of each and every country in the world. Where there are transport facilities there must be development. Every plan, every scheme of national economic and industrial development, must start with transport and end with transport.
Railway Development in Russia.
The first railway in Russia was built in 1834, between St. Petersburg and Tzarskoe Selo. This was soon followed by the opening of a 400 miles railway communication between the Capital City and Moscow, an event which marked the beginning of the amazing development and progress of the Empire of the Tzars. It is interesting to record that the gauge adopted for the Russian railways was the largest and heaviest in the world. All railways since constructed in Russia have necessarily been continued on that scale, and Russian cars, locomotives and trucks are the biggest, most spacious and least jolty met with in any country. The heavy tare of the rolling stock required a good page 28 track, special rails and exceptionally solid bridges, and Russia can boast steel bridges of the finest construction, spanning such enormous rivers as the Volga, Enissey, Irtish, Dnieper, Don, Lena and Amur. The great European plain, with its endless steppes, provided a splendid field for the development of railways, as the cost of construction on a flat ground, without tunnels and expensive excavations, was low. As was only natural, Moscow, situated in the centre of the vast agricultural district, gradually became the main middle point of Russian railways, and the junction of nine principal railway lines. The Asiatic possessions of the Russian Empire were still awaiting their development, and it was only in 1895 that the great Trans-Siberian Railway was constructed.
The task of linking the ports of the Baltic with those of the Pacific Ocean (a distance of approximately 7000 miles) was accomplished during the reign of the Emperor Alexander III. in the course of four years (1891–1895), and special expresses, have been run since then, covering the distance in ten days, and without change of carriages en route. Russia became very much alive to the necessity of developing the railway system, and the programme of the Government for the last forty years before the revolution was always providing for special credits designed to build new railways. Exports were increasing tremendously, huge grain elevators were erected in the principal ports of the country, and the traffic became so heavy that it was found necessary to double-track all the Trans-Siberian, which task was interrupted by the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, but accomplished soon after. The public was invited to participate in railway loans, and many private companies were formed, with a view to opening new avenues of commerce and to connect various regions by railways with centres and ports. International capitalists invested huge sums in the development and working of Russian railways.
During a period of time from 1870 to the beginning of the Great War, of the exports of Russia those to Germany increased from 21.1 per cent, to 31.8, owing to increased railway facilities. The traffic the other way, from the Continent to Russia, during the same time, increased from 39.5 per cent, to 52.6 per cent. The ten years preceding the Great War developed the national wealth of Russia to an enormous extent. The production of coal, for instance, from sixteen millions of tons reached thirty-two millions in 1911, and over forty millions just before the War. The yield of agricultural produce (grain) in 1901 was fifty-four millions of tons, while in 1911 it amounted to seventy-five millions of tons.
Achievements in Transport.
Before the revolution, Russia was the second country in Europe in regard to the length of the railway system. While Germany was possessing 40,766 miles of railways, Russia was coming next with 39,706 miles, as against France (32,924), Austria-Hungary (29,582), Great Britain (25,053), and Italy (11,304). Yet the Russian railways were inadequate. For every 10,000 of population the miles of line were only 3.2, the same as in Italy, while in France the figure was 8.4, in Germany 6.2, and in Great Britain 5.6.
Russia was always the granary of Europe, and the Continent obtained, before the revolution, no less than one-third of her staple food requirements in Russia. Just before the Great War Russia produced 34 per cent, of the world's wheat, 50 per cent, of the barley, and 90 per cent, of the flax. All these tremendous quantities of produce were transported by Russian railways.
There wab a striking development of railway construction and transport facilities, coupled with unprecedented progress in industrial and economic conditions in Russia during the years preceding the downfall of the Empire. During the ten years between the Russo-Japanese War and the Great War, Russia's wealth had doubled. Suffice to say that the money page 29 In banks and in circulation for that period of time, increased by about 111 per cent. Capital from foreign countries was freely flowing into Russia.
The Chinese Eastern Railway.
Yesterday and To-day.
The Great War stopped the development of the Russian railways at the moment of their greatest expansion. The Caspian railway, the Black Sea railway, the Middle-Asia railway were nearly finished, page 30 and Russia constructed her last railway during the War, at Murman, connecting the capital with the White Sea, to have communication with the Allies.
During the revolution an enormous amount of damage was done to the Russian railways, and a really vast field of further development and reconstruction work is now facing the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics, which took the place of the old administrators.
An interesting alteration is introduced now in the working of the Soviet railways. The old regime was running passenger trains supplied with carriages of three different classes—I. II. and III.—making a serious difference in fares and accommodation. The difference in classes was abolished, but the carriages containing arm-chairs and divans were still attractive, so the U.S.S.R, decreed to continue to run them as well as the third class carriages, but to call the first class carriages “soft cars” and the third class carriages “hard cars,” charging different fares accordingly.
The transportation of goods and produce from the Trans-Siberian railway to China finishes at a station called Chanchun, in Manchuria. Here the Russian gauge ends, and the goods must be transhipped into Japanese goods wagons, only to proceed a short distance to Mukden, whence the Chinese railways accept transport.
The Chinese Railways.
All eyes are on China nowadays, and it would be of interest, perhaps, to have a glance at the railway system of the Celestial Empire, now transformed into a Republic under American methods and ideas. The transportation in China is naturally slow, as the country is using her river navigation preferably to the railway accommodation, and the railway system in China is very little developed. In fact, China built no railways of her own, all the existing railway lines being constructed and run by foreigners. The Tzingtao railway was built and managed by Germans, and all the rolling stock was brought from Germany, including locomotives and points. During the Great War the line was confiscated, and the Chinese Government thus received a railway that it can claim as being the only Government railway in China at the present time.
In 1898 the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, together with a firm of British merchants in China (Jardine, Matheson and Co. Ltd.), founded the British Chinese Corporation, to carry on in China “or elsewhere” the business of contractors for railways and public works. The activities of the Company started with an advance of a loan to the Chinese Government for the double tracking of the Peking-Mukden railway line, and this line, as well as the Shanghai-Nanking railway, are in the hands of British interests. The Russo-Asiatic Bank advanced money for the Peking-Hankow railway.
In 1902 the Banque de Paris promoted railways in Yunnan and Shan-Si Provinces (South and North China). After the French, the Americans tried to develop Chinese railways and to promote new ones, but without marked success, as far as the writer knows.
Generally speaking, political and commercial quarrels over the matter of railway development in China have marked the past and are affecting the present situation. Thus a scientific and quiet working of the Chinese railways is a thing never yet attained. The Government of the Chinese Republic took over the administration of several hundreds of miles of railways, under special arrangements with the Powers, but the deplorable state of the Chinese Treasury is barring every progress and possibility of expansion.
China is an ex-territorial country, which means that all foreign merchants doing business in China must, by treaty, do so under their own laws and regulations. It is the dream of the present Chinese Government to abolish the exterritoriality and to govern the white men like their own, but it seems very improbable that such a change should take place in the near future. The Republic of China has not yet codified her laws and modernised her institutions to the extent page 31 that foreigners may become subject to them. The present war with Japan is a further complication, and the Chinese railways are deteriorating seriously and require a good hand to put them in order. It is significant to note that an American company has been organised recently in the north of Shantung to operate a fleet of fifty motor trucks to carry produce to the ports.
The chaos and disorder prevailing in China affects very seriously the transportation of goods and produce in China. Although the rolling stock is good, brought mainly from Europe and Great Britain, the running of railways is defective and the control slack. Continuous civil wars and so-called bandits are often interrupting the working of the railways, damaging sometimes the track and stock to a very considerable extent.
An Adventure With Bandits.
Under such conditions it will be seen that there is plenty of room for improvements and developments, especially in the railway business of the great Celestial Empire.page break