Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

however, in the shade of individual those who came under the Govertrees. The wild rose also abounds, nor-General of Irkutsk, that eight and brackens usurp what remains. months' railway work should count Along the railway - line, which as one year of imprisonment or winds in long - drawn sigmoid hard labour, according to circumcurves, navvies are now in greater stances. For the exiles the term evidence. The Direction takes on required to enable them to be practically all who offer, as the registered as peasants was to be supply is not in excess of the de- reduced, in return for labour on mand. The astonishing daily wage the railway, in the proportion of of 14 roubles is paid ; labour can- one year for two. For those who not be got cheaper. On the western more than two years before bad half of the line the men are mainly been transported for life, the Russians, Siberians, and in a few period during which they should instances Italians; farther east have to wait before permission you find convicts, Chinese, and would be granted to choose a dwellCoreans. During the summer they ing-place was reduced by one-half; lie out at night or rear a simple and for those compelled to live in dwelling by means of sleepers, far Siberia, the term of deportation much as

a child makes one of was to be shortened by counting bricks.

one year as two. The question of criminal labour The success attending convict on the railway presents some inter- labour on the Mid-Siberian Railesting features that may be briefly way gave rise to the idea of again narrated here. Once it was re- extending these regulations to the solved to employ convict labour, other farther Eastern section of the problem that presented itself to the railway. With this object the the Ministry of the Interior was same privileges were granted to how, out of the criminal prisoners prisoners and exiles coming under from European Russia, the lazy the surveillance of the Governorlocal population of the Siberian General of Ussuri as to those prisons, and the political exiles, to under the Governor - General of form a disciplined army of railway Irkutsk. workmen. It was, however, solved For the supervision of the exiles 80 brilliantly that the convicts the Minister of the Interior apworking on the Mid-Siberian road pointed special officers, and for the by their labour and irreproachable supervision of the common criminal conduct attracted the attention of labourers, inspectors and orderlies. the august President of the Com- The former enjoy a position of mittee of the Siberian Railway. district country control, with the Convict labour was at first directed right added of calling out a milito the construction of the Ussuri tary escort.

Each individual conRailway, where, on the contrary, troller has 200 versts of the road it far from verified expectations, allotted to him. The inspectors and the convict party was soon and orderlies have the privileges sent back to the island of Saghalin. of the lower police ranks, and are On a larger scale the experiment disposed at every 50 versts of was repeated in the construction road-construction, of the Mid-Siberian Railway. In Again we have exchanged our order to make the work attractive, wooded park for the open plain, and so include convicts of all cate- along which we ride now somewhat gories, a regulation was made for timidly, and at last reach the banks

of the river Tom, where the un- troops towards her Eastern fronfinished bridge once more renders tiers. In their white cotton jackthe ferry-boat indispensable. Later ets with red epaulettes, dark-green we saw the testing of the bridge trousers, black waist - belt, long previous to opening. On each boots, and white peak caps, the span a train consisting of four men look in the best of spirits, as locomotives and four laden wag- if they were enjoying themselves gons had to remain for two hours; to their hearts' content. At the thereafter the train traversed the station they descend, form up, and bridge several times, increasing the then march off, singing a while rate of speed at each passage. some of their strange folk-lays. In

Tomsk, the third largest town about an hour, the sound of a in all Siberia, is not situated on measured tramp of feet accompanythe main line; a branch line from ing a lively chorus betokens their a point called Taiga runs thither. return, and each man may be seen True to all traditions, the Tomsk swinging along with a large brown terminus is 3 versts from the town. loaf of rye-bread under his arm. When we passed eastwards in Now we enter a distinctly hilly June, Taiga was represented by a and wooded country. The floral few piles of logs, and the branch- wealth is very great-purple cypriline was in process of construc- pedia, aconite, blue potentillas, tion. Three months later, not wild geranium, equisetum, and a only was the usual large stone hundred other varieties. Two water-reservoir standing sentinel, lovely lilies now demand attenpagoda-like, over a neat array of tion owing to their quantity,– log-houses, varying in colour and the graceful yellow Hemerocallis, appearance, but the buffet was set like so many golden stars in capable of supplying a champagne a firmament of emerald, smiles lunch in honour of the birth of a back to the drooping purple Lilium son to the Governor of Tomsk. martagon.

It was only by the courtesy of On occasions the train comes to the railway officials that we pro- a standstill, and the workmen ceeded farther by rail ; however, who accompany us rush out and it was expected that the line would pull up the wild rhubarb. Scotch be open to the public as far as fir, spruce, Siberian poplar, alder, Krasnoyarsk by October of last and birch predominate. Approachyear. In two years one will prob- ing Atchinsk, however, we again ably be able to go as far as Ir- come on the open plain. As our kutsk, and in six years more there waggon creeps nearer the town on after, Vladivostock and Paris may a side-line, we observe that we are be joined by rail.

gradually working into the midst The new train on the far side of of a large band of settlers. Sudthe river Tom is entirely com- denly there is a violent jerk, then posed of trucks filled with iron the train stops, and we find that rails and tools, except for two or we have left the rails : thus we three carriages for the inspector are conveniently situated for study and director of that division of the right in the middle of the settler line; one of these we share. There colony. is, however, one fourth-class wag- It was already evening, and the gon full of labourers. At Marinsk cool night wind had begun to we pass a military train-part of blow. Reviewing the temporary the general movement of Russian camp pitched upon either side of us, we could perceive that it con- ing purposes. See them squatting tained perhaps three hundred souls. there, in weariness of soul, killing It was only natural to find that time as best they may around a they had mostly come from South- samovar, perhaps the family heirern Russia, but had been waiting loom that once saw better days. where we found them six long Thus, then, they sat by the low fires weeks, in hope of further trans- in dark-brown homespun kaftans, mission to the neighbourhood of fleecy shubas, or padded jackets. Yeneseisk. They had much of And as they sat they talked I which to complain, and recounted know not what about, perchance how they had suffered numerically some memories of home, while far from epidemics. Cholera, typhus, to the west the last rays of the and other loathsome enemies of declining sun were filling the mankind had walked—were walk- heavens with a purple glow. We ing-at their ease amongst them; sat by the car-window and watched thirty per cent had died. Most them in the stillness of the night: had ensconced themselves in the leé now and again they would start up of the embankment, which at this when there was borne from some point began to rise to meet a remoter group keeping late vigil bridge that spans the small river those soft, weird, minor melodies on which Atchinsk stands. Beside that are the priceless possession them were the railway trenches of the Russian folk. And when water-filled; clouds of mosquitoes the dying strains of the song soared filled the air. These the colonists to a high-pitched note held by the attempted to drive away by smok- female voices, while the men proing, or by sitting closely round the longed it an octave lower, it seemed fires that formed the centre of like some sad musical interrogation, each family circle; or again, some Why had they left Poltava to die plucked short half-charred sticks on the Siberian steppe? out of the fire, and, blowing on Next morning we left our helpthem, served by the heat engen- less waggon, crossed the river by

, dered to protect their faces; while the ferry-boat, and started off on others sought refuge in shawls the last possible railway stretch in and handkerchiefs, so wrapping up

a fourth-class car. their heads that only an eye re- Now we are fairly in the Taiga, mained visible. Not far removed, as they call the forest in little heaps, lay their worldly Siberian poplars, with ash - grey possessions,-& square box or two stem and quivering leaves; spruces, wrapped in sacking forming the with their regular isosceles - trigroundwork, on and around which angled contours and dark shading; were bags and bundles tied with giant larches towering above their rope, untied, split, bursting, empty. fellows; cedars having peculiar

, A few branches bent hoopwise, branches, crowded with knob-like with either end stuck in the bunches of green needles; Scotch ground, and interwoven with yet firs, with cinnamon-coloured upper other leafy branches, formed their trunks, toning down to sombre rude dwellings. Some, more fortu- iron-grey; birches, with pure white nate, had improvised a tent of dirty gentle stems; and alders,—these cloth, into which they could just form the body, while the padding crawl. Others had adopted the is largely left to the smaller but device of the surfacemen, and ap- graceful Siberian spruce, with propriated sleepers for hut-build- smoother bark and darker leaves.

zone.

Such is the Siberian jungle, now a fine building had been reared pierced by two thin lines of iron rail. in red sandstone. The bridge over At night, during this last journey, the Yenesei will be one of the the coupling-irons gave way on a masterpieces of the line. Built, somewhat steep incline, and the like them all, in the lattice-girder detached portion of the train style, its single span will have a began to roll backwards. Luckily length of over 400 sajens (2800 the man in charge of the only feet). The bridge over the Tom is brake awoke at this moment, and only about half as long as this one in a few seconds the retreat was will be, with three spans, and it stopped. He confessed, however, cost half a million roubles. that it was

more owing to the Although when coming back we rough state of the line than to the joined a special waggon at a point efficiency of the brake that the run- 103 versts east of Krasnoyarsk, away portion was so quickly con- yet from this town we had to trolled. But this was not all, for begin driving on the way out. first the engine deserted the track, We constantly passed little patches and later on another waggon fol- of embankment, either finished or lowed its example, so that in all we in process of construction, or again spent exactly four days in covering as yet merely represented by three what was performed in thirty-six sticks standing in the tree-cleared hours on the homeward run. As vista, of which the outer two inwe carried workmen with us, how- dicated the extreme limit of the ever, it was only a case of waiting breadth of the embankment, while till the necessary repairs were the third attested its height at accomplished, except in the case of the middle point.

And as the coupling-irons. The Taiga has drove on through the forest we been cut down for about 40 yards would suddenly come on the birchon either side of the embankment, bark huts of the workmen nestling making a broad clearing of 100 in the shade of the trees. The yards or so at parts. Along the labourers, variously attired, but rough roadway, seldom devoid of with a preference for the red gradient, the weary engine toils: rubashka, sit round their fires : a at times it almost seems as if a few telegas, still heaped with goods, steeper bit of incline would be too the hobbled horses, all proclaim much for it, when suddenly with a that work has not long commenced jerk the difficulty is overcome, at this point. In the distance the

resume our seven miles overseer is riding away on his horse an hour, which slow rate is in to the nearest village, now that the part a precaution for safety. day's work is over.

One fine morning at 3 A.m. we It is difficult to estimate the enter the hill-encircled plain where enormous amount of labour that lies the town of Krasnoyarsk. has been expended on this railway, Piles of wood, stone, and rails in- Consider how, to begin with, all dicate that here, at any rate, is to

the sleepers have been sawn tedibe a station of some dimensions; ously by hand : the log rests at a and when towards the end of considerable elevation upon two summer we passed through again, props ; one

man stands upon it,

we

and we

1 1.e., we retraced most of it at the rate of 27 versts an hour, while it is asserted that Prince Khilkoff was taken over parts of the line in August of last year at 52 versts an hour.

VOL. CLXI.-NO, DCCCCLXXV.

B

working the saw downwards to each of which is held in position
another man below. Then in the by two little pegs of wood.
construction of any high embank- Evidences of the railway accom-
ment the supporting piles are panied us so far as we went. The
driven in by a primitive contriv- clearing through the Taiga now
ance, also of wood, in the form of extends throughout its length,
a giant tripod, from the top of and at different points one comes
which there hangs a pulley. Over on the embankment in varying
this runs a rope, to one end of stages of development. Common-
which is attached a heavy stone, ly, it is still disconnected where
with level base, while the other end rivers break across its course; but
is led on to a wheel at the side, the magnificent bridge over the
by means of which the weight is Selenga, in the neighbourhood of
raised. This arrangement is fixed Verchni-Udinsk, is now in process
over each pile in turn, so that the of construction.
descending stone may strike it ; It was impossible to see the
thus after a generation the pile is progress of the work round the
driven home to the required depth. south end of the Baikal Lake, as

One other point may be briefly the direct route leads one naturally touched upon. Siberia, with one to traverse it by steamboat. This or two exceptions, is not in the part will involve considerable diffipossession of good roads—at least, culty, and, as it may not be ready such as could be counted on for for some time, a steamer of 4000 the transport of rails, fixed or tons is being constructed for the rolling stock. The natural course purpose of transporting the train was therefore to employ her splen- bodily across the lake. A model did waterways, and one of the first of this boat was on view at the acts of the Committee of the Trans- Nijni-Novgorod Exhibition of last Siberian Railway was to authorise

It is intended that it the expenditure of over a million shall make its own way across roubles on the improvement of the ice-bound lake; but instead of water communication on the rivers working on the American principle of Western Siberia, and on explora- of, as it were, climbing up on the tion of the Amur. How much ice and so breaking it down by was necessary to be done in the sheer weight, in accordance with way of deepening channels, cutting the idea of a Russian engineer the

a down trees which threatened to model represents the vessel as profall into the water, retaining rivers vided with a screw in the bow, in their beds, and marking danger- which, by its action near the surous places, can only be understood face of the water, might be supby those who have seen it for posed to weaken the ice. Captain themselves. How much has been Wiggins meanwhile condemns this done is only in keeping with the scheme, for however well it may really remarkable speed at which succeed with a foot of ice, it seems this whole enterprise is being car- to be a very inefficient method of ried through.

coping with the thicker Baikal ice. Lastly, one is impressed with There is a twin screw-propeller at the extremely finished nature of the stern : and the bow is modelled the work : thus the side of the to have the same appearance above large brown embankment is water as the stern. Four funnels, covered often with an intinite disposed in corners of an imaginary number of small squares of turf, square, serve to give the steamer,

summer.

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »