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Baikal-Amur Mainline in green; Trans-Siberian line in red

The broad gauge Baikal-Amur Mainline (Russian Байкало-Амурская Магистраль, Baikalo-Amurskaya Magistral’, BAM) is a railway line in Russiamarker. Traversing Eastern Siberiamarker and the Russian Far East, the 4,324 km (2,687 mile) long BAM runs about 610 to 770 km (380 to 480 miles) north of and parallel to the Trans-Siberian railway.

The BAM was built as a strategic alternative route to the Trans-Siberian Railway, especially along the vulnerable sections close to the border with Chinamarker. The BAM's costs were estimated at $14 billion, and it was built with special, durable tracks since much of it was built over permafrost.


The BAM departs from the Trans-Siberian railway at Tayshetmarker, then crosses the Angara Rivermarker at Bratskmarker and the Lena Rivermarker at Ust-Kutmarker, proceeds past Severobaikalskmarker at the northern tip of Lake Baikalmarker, past Tyndamarker and Khani, crosses the Amur Rivermarker at Komsomolsk-na-Amuremarker and finally reaches the Pacific Oceanmarker at Sovetskaya Gavanmarker. There are 21 tunnels along the line, with a total length of 47 km (29 miles). There are also more than 4,200 bridges, with a total length of over 400 km (about 260 miles).

Of the whole route, only the western Tayshetmarker-Taksimomarker sector of 1,469 km (913 miles) is electrified. The route is largely single-track, although the reservation is wide enough for double-tracking for its full length, in the case of eventual duplification.

At Tyndamarker the route is crossed by the Amur Yakutsk Mainline, which runs north to Neryungrimarker and Tommotmarker, with an extension to Yakutskmarker under construction. The original section of the AYaM connecting the Trans-Siberian at Bamovskaya with the BAM at Tynda is also also referred to as the "Little BAM".


Early plans and start of construction

The route of the present-day BAM was first considered in the 1880s as an option for the eastern section of the Trans-Siberian railway.

The section from Tayshetmarker to Bratskmarker was built in the 1930s using the labor of labor camp inmates, in particular the Bamlag camp of the Gulag system. Most of the Far Eastern section was built during the years of 1944-1946, again, mainly by gulag prisoners, including Germanmarker and Japanesemarker prisoners of war, of whom possibly as many as 150,000 died. In 1953, following Stalin's death, virtually all construction work on the BAM stopped and the line was abandoned to the elements for more than twenty years. However, interest in the project never waned in part because of strained relations with China—a Chinese attack on the border-tracing Trans-Siberian railway would have cut off transportation to the Russian far east.

Construction project of the century

In March 1974, Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev stated that a new BAM project would become a huge Komsomol undertaking. Brezhnev famously stated that "BAM will be constructed with clean hands only!" and firmly rejected the suggestion to use prison labor again. The Soviet Unionmarker described BAM as "the construction project of the century."

In September 1984, a "golden spike", akin to one used in Utahmarker in 1869, was hammered into place, connecting the eastern and western sections of the BAM. The Western media was not invited to attend this historic event as Soviet officials did not want any comments about the line's operational status. In reality, only one third of the BAM's track was fully operational for civilians, due to military reasons.

The BAM was again declared complete in 1991. By then, the total cost to build the line was US$14 billion.


Beginning in the mid-1980s, the BAM-project attracted increasing criticism for bad planning. Infrastructure and basic services like running water were often not in place when workers arrived. At least 60 boomtowns developed around the route, but nowadays a lot of these places are deserted and unemployment in the area is high. The building of the BAM has also been criticised for its complete lack of environmental protection.

The collapse of the Soviet Union saw the cancellation of numerous mining and industrial projects in the region, meaning the BAM was greatly underutilized until the late 1990s, running at a large operational deficit.

In 1996, the BAM as a single operational body was dissolved, with the western section from Tayshetmarker to around Khani becoming the East Siberian Railway, the rest transferred to the management of the Far-East Railway.

Current situation and future prospects

A recent major improvement was the opening of the 15,343 meters (9.534 mile) Severomuysky Tunnelmarker on December 5, 2003. It is up to 1.5 km (nearly 1 mile) deep. Construction took twenty-seven years to complete. Prior to this, the corresponding route segment was 54 km (34 miles) long, with heavy slopes necessitating the use of auxiliary locomotives.

With the resources boom of recent years and improving economic conditions in Russia, use of the line is increasing. Plans for development of mining areas such as Udokanskoje and Chineyskoje near Novaya Charamarker, as well as one of Eurasia's largest coal deposits at Elginskoye (Elga) in the Sakha Republic . In connection with this, a number of branch lines have been built or are under construction.

The construction of the 320 Kilometer long branch line to Elginskoye, branching from the BAM station Ulak, west of the Zeya River crossing in northwestern Amur Oblastmarker, was cancelled in 2002 after only 60 Kilometer of track had laid. However, in 2007 Russian mining company Mekhel bought the coal mine and unfinished rail line for 2,3 billion US Dollars. Japanese group Sumitomo are also investing in the project. On February 15, 2008 the construction of the track recommenced, with a planned end date of 2010. The section of track will cross the Stanovoy Rangemarker, requiring 194 bridges along its route.

It is also intended that the BAM should become an alternative route for container transport between Europe and the Pacificmarker, although the single-track nature of most of the route and the lack of suitable connections at the eastern end currently stand in the way. Currently under discussion is the construction of a tunnel under the Strait of Tartarymarker to Sakhalin Islandmarker, with the possibility of the further construction of a bridge from Sakhalin to Japanmarker. A tunnel from the mainland to Sakhalin was previously begun under Stalin, but was abandoned after his death. A second attempt in 2003 was also postponed during construction. Current economic conditions make the short-term completion of the tunnel doubtful, although Russian president Dmitry Medvedev announced in November 2008 his support for a revival of this project.

The BAM now also attracts the interest Western railway enthusiasts, with some tourist activity on the line.

Along the BAM

Tynda, the "capital" of BAM
Tayshet to Lake Baikal -1064 km: 0:Tayshetmarker: about 300 km east of Krasnoyarskmarker, Trans-Siberian Railway, M53 highway to Irkutsk. 129:Sosnovye Rodniki: timber port. Chuna River 142:Chuna. 269:Vikhorevkamarker: railway administration. 282:Anzebi: 20 km spur line to Bratskmarker town. About 330: Bratsk Dammarker: Railway runs across the top of the dam. 463:Vidim. 546:Shredneilimskya on the Ust-Ilimskmarker reservoir. 554:Zheleznogorsk-Ilimskymarker:mining town. 575: Khrebetovaya: branch line north to Ust-Ilimskmarker (see branches below) Enter Lena basin. Kuta River. 715:Ust-Kutmarker: port on the Lena Rivermarker where goods are loaded onto boats for transport north. End of the line until 1974. 736:Lena Vostochnaya: east of the Lena, start of the BAM proper from 1974. Line tends east southeast. 786:Zvyozdnaya: first new town built on the BAM. 890:Kirenga: 12 km east is the larger town of Magistralnyy. Kirenga River and bridge. 931:Ul'kan: on the Ulkan branch of the Kirenga. 1005:Delbichenda: last stop before the 6.7 km Baikal Mountain Tunnel (between 1979 and 1984 there was a 15 km bypass over the mountain). 1014:Daben. 1064: Lake Baikal.

Lake Baikal to Tynda 1300 km: 1064:Severobaykalskmarker. 4 small tunnels along the lake. 1104:Nizhneangarskmarker. leave Lake Baikal, northeast up the valley of the Upper Angara River. 1257:Novy Uoyanmarker: there is talk of building a railroad south from here to the Trans-Siberian. Enter Severomuysk Mountains. Much permafrost from here to Tynda. 1385-1400: Severomuysky Tunnelmarker: 15.7 km long, very difficult construction. Exit mountain. Scenic section with mountains to north and south. Much fog. 1484:Taksimomarker:end of electrified section. Muya River. 1548:Shivery: leave Buryat Republic. Vitimmarker River. 1577:Kuanda: official 'completion' of the BAM was celebrated here in September 1984. Valley into mountains. 1664:Kodar: Kodar mountains, 1.9 km tunnel. 1734:Novaya Charamarker. 1879:Khani: the only BAM town in the Sakha Republic. Northernmost point on the line. Line turns south southeast along the Olyokma River. Enter Amur basin. 2364:Tyndamarker

Tynda to Komsomolsk 1473 km :2364:Tyndamarker: Branch railway and highway north to Yakutsk, little BAM south to the Trans-Siberian. 2704: Bridge over Zeya Reservoirmarker. Line heads southeast. 3205:Bureya River bridge. 3315:Novy Urgalmarker:Branch south to Trans-Siberian. 3403:east to Dusse-Alin Tunnel. Northeast up the Amgun River. 3633:Postyshevo: east. 3697:Evoron Lakemarker. southeast to 3837:Komsomolsk-on-Amurmarker.

Komsomolsk to Sovetskaya Gavan 486 km. This section was completed by prisoners during World War II, except for the 19 km section east of Komsomolsk which was completed in 1974. Komsomolsk. 1734m Amur Rivermarker Bridge. 0:Pivan(new numbering system). 51:Selikhin: Branch. 95-340:Sikhote Alin Mountainsmarker. 403:Mongokhtomarker 441:Vanino: port, train ferry to Sakhalin Islandmarker, practical end of passenger service. 467:Sovetskaya Gavanmarker: naval base.


  • 575:Khrebtovaya to Ust-Ilimsk, 214 km: Opened in 1970, it runs northeast to serve the dam at Ust-Ilimskmarker.
  • 1257:Novy Uoyan: possible start of line south on east side to Lake Baikal.
  • 2364:Tynda to the Trans-Siberian at Bamovskaya,180 km (the 'Little BAM'): This branch was built by prisoners in 1933-37, torn up in 1942 and its rails shipped to the front and rebuilt in 1972-75.
  • 2364:Tynda to Yakutsk: see Amur Yakutsk Mainline.
  • 3315:Novy Urgal to the Trans-Siberian at Izvestovskaya,328 km: In the Bureya River basin, it was built mostly by Japanese POWs. There is a 32 km branch north from Novy Urgal to the Chegdomynmarker coal fields.
  • 3837:Komsomolsk south to Khabarovsk, 374 km; on east side (flood plain) of the Amur. 99 km south:Lake Bolonmarker.
  • 51(line km restart at Komsomolsk):Selikhin to Cherny Mys,122 km: north along the Amur. Built 1950-53, it was planned to extend this to a tunnel to Sakhalin Island. There is talk of restarting it.


Main belt asteroid 2031 BAM, discovered in 1969 by Sovietmarker astronomer Lyudmila Chernykh, is named in honor of the builders of the BAM.


Image:Tynda rail.jpg|Railway station at TyndamarkerImage:Vikhorevka.jpg|Railway station at VikhorevkamarkerImage:Fevralsk.jpg|Railway station at FevralskmarkerImage:Tayshet_old.jpg|Old station building at Tayshetmarker


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