Locomotive No. 3 in Ermakovo

After the death of Stalin in March 1953, the entire construction of the railway from Salekhard to Igarka was hastily mothballed and abandoned. Consequently, in the middle of the taiga, we can come across rusting locomotives and other railroad equipment.

Watch Václav Djačuk’s whole story

In some cases, steam locomotives, which could not be taken away like other equipment, were cannibalised and cut up with oxyacetylene burners. Similarly, rails were also gradually removed in several sections so that the railway was no longer usable practically from the get-go. The rails from which the entire route was constructed often came from originally discarded and dismantled older tracks throughout Russia. Consequently, it’s possible to come across rails that were produced as far back as the 19th century in tsarist ironworks.

The railway was built using only primitive technology, basic tools, and manpower. “Try sawing through a rail by hand using two people,” recalls Alexander Snovsky in his description of the construction. “That’s how we did it – an awful job. We then bored through the shortened rails with a hand drill so that we could join them together…In order to meet our target during the construction of the embankment, we threw down branched trees to pad it out.”

If we factor in the impact of melting permafrost, it is no wonder that the railway required constant maintenance and repairs to damaged sections. The maximum working speed of the sections that were put into operation was 15 kilometres per hour.

During our expeditions, we came across a total of five locomotives. You can have a look at these other engines here:


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